Urban park mixes massive playground with Mother Nature

My 2-year-old son is on a playground kick. He shouts, “Playground, playground,” whenever we pass one while driving. So recently I decided to take him to the playground of all playgrounds in the Columbus area – Millstone Creek Park in Westerville.

The $1.6 million play area, operated by Westerville Parks and Recreation, opened at 745 N. Spring Rd. in May 2010.

The sprawling complex has two personalities. One side contains a colorful, multi-dimensional playground built on a rubberized surface. The other side is inspired by nature and includes native plants and a mini swamp, with croaking frogs and curious turtles.

  • Millstone Creek
  • Play
  • Wander Off
  • Make Music
  • Explore
  • Splash
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Max and I started our adventure on the manmade side. Its main structure is a two-layered labyrinth of climbing devices and twisty slides. Built in are little skill games and musical instruments, such as big plastic whistles that toot when you push fat buttons. The structure’s underbelly is more geared toward toddlers and is partially shaded by the upper portion.

Max enjoyed banging a mallet on one of four xylophones. I was disappointed, though, to see that three of the instruments were missing their mallets, which wasn’t the case when our family visited on a warm day last November.

Other cool features, many of which are handicapped accessible, include a “Sway Fun” rocking boat and a funky gyroscope-like contraption for multiple kids to spin upon at once. There are even electronic games, including one that tests players to see how quickly they can press 40 lights.

The adjacent natural playground mixes native plants, such as bright black-eyed Susans, with felled trees and boulders for climbing. There’s also a sandy beach near a pebbly stream.

Max liked walking through a wire-framed tunnel with flowering shrubs growing around it. Then it was off to build a dam in a water trough fed by a hand pump.

The park is framed by a wooden fence, and just beyond the surrounding bike path is a grove of large cottonwood trees.

Near the bathrooms are drinking fountains and a basketball court.

Max and I got more than our fill of playing, then headed out for ice-cream cones at Graeter’s in historic uptown Westerville. State Street, the city’s main drag, is beautifully decorated with American flags and full baskets of purple and pink petunias hanging from lampposts.

Max, tuckered out, fell asleep on the way home, allowing other playgrounds to pass by like dreams.

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