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Children's nature playscape breaks ground in downtown Kalamazoo

KZoo Children's Nature Playscape Breaks Ground
Posted at 6:06 PM, Mar 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-23 12:16:54-04

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — A children's nature playscape broke ground on Tuesday in Kalamazoo County.

The groundbreaking was held over a year after the church that previously stood in its place was demolished.

The space at S. Church and Academy Street was home to the First Reformed Church of Kalamazoo for 140 years until it was demolished in December 2020.

Now, it is back to its roots with the goal of being one of the country's largest natural playscapes in an urban core.

"Something we are really looking forward to," said Steve Love, a Kalamazoo resident.

The First Reformed Church of Kalamazoo was purchased by the First Congregational Church of Kalamazoo after being empty and neglected for around 25 years.

"It is always a hard decision when you have to take down a historic building, but the church had been empty for several years. We wanted to make sure the properties around Bronson Park could stay open and accessible to the people," said Jody Brylinsky, the chair of the Children's Nature Playscape Steering Committee.

The Children's Nature Playscape made sense to its owners and the community, creating a natural space in the heart of downtown for families and children to use right by Bronson Park.

"Bronson Park is beautiful but it is really not made for kids to run around and dig up and enjoy, and so we really feel that we are adding to the vibrancy of the downtown community," said Brylinsky.

"It is really good that we have that, especially in an environment where we live out in the suburbs of Kalamazoo. We want to make sure that she gets out into some fun nature, as well as in a structured and monitored space," said Love.

The space will be open, free, accessible and ADA compliant, welcoming children and families of all abilities and socioeconomic situations.

"There’s going to be a water stream down the middle, a hill to run up and play on, logs to climb on. I think the key to remember is that everything in here will be natural and native plants. There will be an educational platform. We’re going to have raised garden beds. Lots of flowers, trees, shrubs, grass; it is just going to be terrific," said Brylinsky.

The total cost of the project is estimated to be around $1.6 million.

  • Site Acquisition & Preparation: $610,379
  • Phase I of Construction: $441,790
  • Phase II's Anticipated Costs: $596,579

Phase I of the Children's Nature Playscape is expected to be completed by this summer. Phase II is currently looking at a construction date of 2022–2023.

To learn more or to donate, you can visit

If you're interested in volunteering or getting involved, you can email

Kalamazoo Children's Nature Playscape

The Children's Nature Playscape is operating as a charitable nonprofit organization under the fiduciary of The First Congregational Church of Kalamazoo, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Funding for the playscape is gained through charitable giving and grants.

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