Special to The Clinton Courier
A new state-of-the-art playground recently opened at the LeFleur’s Bluff Education and Tourism Complex, and Clintonian Angel Rohnke is excited about the opportunity it holds for area children. Rohnke serves as the director of the LeFleur’s Bluff Complex.
The Complex is the shared campus between the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks’ Mississippi Museum of Natural Science (MMNS) and the Mississippi Children’s Museum (MCM). The multi-purpose complex will be used for recreational and educational activities, featuring a playground, an outdoor pavilion and a museum walking trail.
Children who play and learn in nature are more physically active, more engaged in learning, and more emotionally healthy, says Rohnke.
“Outdoor experiences build visual-spatial skills, strengthen observation and creativity, improve concentration, and enhance motor and imagination skills,” she said.
The first phase of the project is the 21st century playground, featuring 80 play activities, 73 of which are inclusive to children with accessibility needs. A custom We-Go-Swing allows accessibility to children with and without wheelchairs.
The 30,000-square-foot playground is separated into different play areas based on age, for children ages 6 months to 12 years old. The playground features a unique play structure for ages 6-23 months, the Wedra, which is the first play structure in the world with this design. Another feature is the Hedra® Tower, which is designed for children ages 5-12 and is the fourth play structure in the country with this design. Shade structures cover 75 percent of the playground, making the area below up to 30 degrees cooler for year-round outdoor play.
“All structures on the playground promote physical activities – from providing greater freedom to run, jump, and climb, to supporting reduced stress levels,” said Emily Hoff, Executive Director for the Mississippi Children’s Museum.
The Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation is the signature sponsor of the LeFleur’s Bluff Playground, Outdoor Pavilion and Museum Trail. The Foundation’s $3.86 million grant for improving the health and well-being of Mississippians made the innovative project possible.
“The LeFleur’s Bluff Playground, Pavilio, and Museum Trail align with the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation’s strategic focus to provide sustainable health and well-being opportunities for Mississippians,” said Sheila B. Grogan, Foundation President. “Encouraging children, families and others to spend more time outside engaging in fun play activities, taking a walk develops life-long positive attitudes about maintaining healthy lifestyles.”
The LeFleur’s Bluff Playground will be open seven days a week, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.; Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 5 pm.; and Sundays from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. Parking is available in the park and at both museums. Admission to the park is free and open to the public.
Spotter’s Adventure Trail (a museum walking trail) and The Den (an outdoor pavilion) are scheduled to open in early summer 2022.
The 8-foot-wide Spotter’s Adventure Trail will be located east of the playground and will lead the way to conveniently visit both museums and the playground. The trail will feature a fun and interactive outdoor experience with Spotter the Otter and friends.
The Den will be located west of the playground and will include tables and seating for up to fifty students. The Den will be used for field trips, events, and programs by both museums, including the award-winning Mississippi Science Festival. An adjacent sloped lawn will allow the structure to be used as an open-air amphitheater for large assemblies.