Orillia was Nathaniel Grant’s playground as a kid, and now he has returned the favour in a way.
Grant, who lived in Orillia before leaving town for college and university, designed the playground for the city's latest park off of Orion Boulevard.
“It was fantastic to get a chance to provide something for the community I grew up in,” he said.
Grant works with Earthscape and is used to designing playgrounds for places in the United States, so when the opportunity came up to design a Canadian one, he used the country — and one of its most popular products, maple syrup — as inspiration.
The Orillia park includes “wobble boards” in the shape of maple leaves, a logjam and post-and-rope challenge that features blue netting to symbolize the tubing found on trees at maple sugar bushes, and bog stilts whose bases are designed to look like sap buckets.
There’s even a feature people can walk or crawl through that resembles a bucket that has tipped over and spilled syrup on the ground.
When doing some research on the area, Grant found out the woodlot where the new playground is located was once used for maple syrup production.
“We wanted to bring that to life,” he said. “We tried to bring some historical significance to the area, which could also have an educational aspect to it.”
Grant attended Uptergrove Public School and Twin Lakes Secondary School while living in the area.
He recalled walking the trail through the woods near Georgian College, where there were logs deliberately set up to be used for workout purposes like pull-ups. He drew inspiration from that experience to create three “semi-abstract workout stations” at the new park.
Much of the new playground will be accessible, which was also important to Grant, who has a brother with a disability.
“It’s nice that we can provide play for all ages and abilities,” he said.
He hopes local kids who visit the park, which is expected to be open sometime in October, enjoy “being able to connect with nature and have some unprescribed play.”
Earthscape teamed up with FRP Inc. for the Orillia project. FRP designed the park, while Earthscape designed the playground.
It is Grant’s first time designing a playground in Canada.
“It just happened to be in my hometown,” he said.
He is also working on a playground in Bracebridge.