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Connecting Community and Nature

Connecting Community and Nature


“I wish I was a lot younger now,” said Ronan Pickering as he gazed upon the largest tree house in Westminster. “I wish I was my brother and sister’s age because I know this is going to be a lot of fun!” 

Although the 17-year-old high school student won’t be running across suspension bridges or scaling a mini mountain, he is still excited for Westminster’s newest play space for kids. 

It was during his 6th grade year at Colorado STEM Academy in 2017, that the City of Westminster approached Ronan’s class to help bring to life an innovative and creative plan. The goal was to create a playground that provided children of all ages and backgrounds with equitable access to the great outdoors in Historic Westminster. 

“We spent a solid week working on our projects,” Ronan remembered. From drawings to dioramas, dozens of Westminster’s youngest residents got to work designing a playground that connected kids to nature. For Ronan, that playground ended up looking very similar to the final product at 3501 Creekside Drive.  

“I remember doing the tree houses with bridges and zip lines... but I don’t see any zip lines just yet,” Ronan joked as he looked around at the five-acre masterpiece. “I think they took their design from all of ours and kind of mashed it together.” 

The City and its partners used input from Ronan and other students to create a blue print for the nature playground. Construction on the $7 million investment started in October 2020 and was made possible in part by generous grants from Adams County Open Space, Great Outdoors Colorado, the Colorado Lottery and Westminster Legacy Foundation.  

The Nature Playground at Westminster Station Park opened on Saturday, Nov. 6 to hundreds of residents and their families, all eager to make memories in a place dedicated to equity, accessibility and environmental stewardship. A place where families can climb a tree house, navigate a switchback trail and dig for replica dinosaur fossils all in the community of Historic Westminster. 

“I’m astonished,” Ronan remarked as he remembered the site that was once a lonely open space. “It’s gotten a boost of life.” 

The high school student said he feels more connected to the Westminster community after his involvement in this project. “It makes me feel like I had an impact on this.”  

That sentiment is also shared by teachers and staff at Colorado STEM Academy who coordinated the project-based learning experience into their curriculum. 

“This project had a lasting impact on my students as many of them still (as 11th graders), talk about the time we helped design a park,” said Jessica Sullivan a sixth-grade teacher at Colorado STEM Academy. “I hope the community sees the new park as a place to experience nature and come together. I know the kids and families at Colorado STEM Academy are eager to have such an amazing play area just blocks away from the school.”  

Ronan will soon embark on his senior year and plans to pursue a career in automotive tech. No matter where life takes him, he said he will always take pride in the work his class accomplished. 

“I’m really proud that I was a part of this, because for my graduating year, instead of a monument, I got a park and a stone [recognizing] the Class of 2023!” 

The City hopes the Westminster Station Park Nature Playground becomes a special place in the hearts of Westminster residents; a place where memories are made, family traditions are created and kids can tap into their imagination to explore, create, and connect with nature for years to come.  

The City of Westminster is grateful for the support and work of its partner, Matrix Design Group and their consultants at Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds, Treecraft Design-Build, Muller Engineering Applebaum Architects, Waterline Studios, Clanton & Associates, Studio NYL, Belfay Engineering and Hydrosystems KDI. In addition, the City recognizes the advocacy and support of the Westy Power!/¡Poder! Parent Council throughout the entire design and construction process. 

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