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New Natural Playground To Be Built At Klehm Arboretum In South Rockford

ROCKFORD — A new natural playground coming to Klehm Arboretum, 2715 S. Main St., will give youth a place to climb and play in a forest setting.

The playground is designed with natural elements such as tree logs and stumps, rather than steel structures or traditional pre-treated lumber.

“They’re very organic, the coloring on a few of (the features) is a very natural color,” said Alex Mills, executive director of Klehm. “It will blend very nicely with some of the landscapes here.”


The playground will be adjacent to the Kid’s Creek water feature and splash pad in the Nancy Olson Children’s Garden at Klehm, a 155-acre property of the Forest Preserves of Winnebago County that’s run by the nonprofit Klehm Arboretum & Botanic Garden.

One area of the playground is intended for children ages 2 to 5, with features to climb on or crawl underneath. Up a gentle slope in the children’s garden will be a series of ropes, rolling logs and stumps designed for ages 5-12. There will be poured-in-place rubber underneath to provide cushioning.

Mills said he hopes the playground gives families more reasons to visit Klehm year-round. The preserve averages roughly 30,000 visitors per year.


“Nature is a wonderful thing to be out in no matter the time of year,” he said. “When there are amenities like this to stop off and have the kids play at — work off some steam and what not — we just think that’s so important and will really help increase visitation and help increase the people getting out into nature.”


The project is funded entirely by a $389,900 Illinois Department of Natural Resources grant. State Rep. Maurice West, along with representatives of Klehm and the Forest Preserves of Winnebago County, announced the grant on Tuesday.

West said it was important to him to show residents of south Rockford that the state is investing in their neighborhood, and he wanted to give youth another way to enjoy nature.


“I am especially grateful to see an investment in a feature that will be enjoyed by our children, who need safe outdoor spaces to play and learn,” he said. “Investment, exposure, and opportunity is critically important for underserved communities in our state.”

Work is expected to begin this fall with the playground opening for children in 2025.

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