Fallen trees from floods within the past year will serve a new purpose as a natural play space under construction at Mother Neff State Park.
Park Superintendent Melissa Chadwick said the idea has been in the works for a few years. The natural play space will include balancing stumps, a dig site, climbing logs and boulders, among other amenities.
Texas State parks officials are working toward developing spaces that are more natural for children to explore, Chadwick said.
“We want to go away from your more traditional plastic playgrounds and have something that strikes imagination and creativity,” she said.
There is still a traditional slide in the play area, but it is mounted into a hill so children will have to climb the hill, not a ladder, to get to the top.
A large concrete armadillo was delivered this week to the park off Texas Highway 236 near Moody. The structure will serve as an prop for photos and a climbing challenge for kids, Chadwick said.
Logs recovered from the park’s flood damage in 2015 are being used for part of the playground, Chadwick said.
“We’re going to have areas where they can get sticks and be creative and build things,” she said. “When you see the big picture it’s really quite awesome.”
Pending the weather, work should be complete by winter, Chadwick said.
There are plenty of logs to choose from for the project. There has been a logjam in the Leon River since before the 400-acre park was declared a disaster area in May 2015 because of flood damage.
Park officials are still in the process of finding a vendor to help with the cleanup, said Steve Lightfoot, a Texas Parks and Wildlife spokesman.
In March, the U.S. Department of Agriculture offered $230,000 to help Mother Neff State Park recover. The funding was part of $21.2 million that went to Texas and a total of $93 million that went to disaster recovery efforts nationwide.
Cleanup will take at least another few months as the bid process and grant requirements are finalized, Lightfoot said.
Meanwhile, a 50 acre section of the park remains closed because of last year’s flood damage, he said.
Despite the ongoing recovery, park activities and visits continue, Chadwick said.
The park southwest of Waco is hosting a large event from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 5 that is free and open to the public. Festivities will celebrate fall and allow guests to see the newly renovated Civilian Conservation Corps Cabin, near the old park headquarters.
Chadwick said there will be barbecue, a live band, live reptiles and children’s activities.