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Sending children outside to play just got better

Traditional play that many of today’s adults experienced as children has been eroding from our cultural landscape. As technology has become more developed, video games and computers have captured the attention of today’s children to the point that the concept of going outdoors to play is almost unheard of anymore.

The city of Williamsport, under the guidance of the Brandon Park Commission and with the assistance of the county planning department, has taken a big step forward with the development of a “nature play” area in the park near Packer and Parkwood streets.

Already brought in are large tree stumps and boulders. A swale has been dug for rainwater infiltration and better drainage behind the Bandshell. New sidewalks have been built for the area, and plans are to add benches and gardens to the area next spring.

Mayor Gabriel J. Campana and Thad Meckley, commission chairman, recently conducted a ribbon cutting at the area, funded through a state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources grant and private funding sources totalling more than $620,000 combined for improvements to Brandon Park.

Some may wonder why so much money would be pumped into a project of this type. City officials said a nature play area was among the top-requested items by those taking a city parks survey a few years ago.

It makes sense. Look up the term “nature play” and you will find an article from the National Wildlife Federation about “nature play spaces.”

When children get outside and play in natural settings, they are engaged with their environment and their imagination is set free. Research suggests that symptoms of attention deficit and depression are reduced, according to the federation, which states: “Experts agree that children need access to nature the same way they need good nutrition and adequate sleep.”

The federation wants to return nature play to America’s playgrounds.

We appreciate that mission. It’s good for the kids and good for the city.

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