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Aspen Sojourner
Community, Parents and Teachers Get Involved

By Atalya Kozak, Connect1Design





Connect One Design collaborated on a pro bono basis with the Aspen Elementary School in Colorado to offer the design and execution of a more usable, exciting and educational outdoor space for the students. A multitude of activities keep the rotation of 500 children busy over recess.
Photos: Connect One Design


Located in Aspen and the greater Denver-metro area, Connect One Design is a landscape architecture and land-planning firm focused on delivering superb value to clients while planning and designing landscapes that regenerate human, financial and natural capital.

The firm values engagement with the local communities that occupy the surrounding landscape of the Roaring Fork River Valley, and it is through pro bono opportunities like the Aspen Elementary School Playground that the firm extended its reach to enhance the lives of the local community. Over 600 hours were donated from master planning to construction administration.

When Gyles Thornely, one of the firm's principals, was approached by PTO (parent teacher organization) of Aspen Elementary School, he did not hesitate to take on the project. As Sarah Chase Shaw of the Aspen Sojourner articulates in the article "Playground Love", "Even in the Rockies, where the ultimate playground-nature-beckons to be explored, organized play remains vital for children."




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Connect One drew on the environment of the Roaring Fork Valley to create a playground that was inclusive of all the ages and abilities at the school. The design celebrates the Rocky Mountain environment with playful interpretations of the geologic past, mining history and outdoor sports including climbing, sledding and even off road driving. While Thornely took great care to ensure the site's safety, it was the design side that proved most satisfying.

Thornely chose to incorporate elements specific to the Aspen environment. Since (playground equipment) catalogs don't include mining shacks and history of the earth walkways, Thornely had to design them himself. The design facilitates all types of play while helping children explore social and environmental concepts.

Many of the elements included were built or provided by the community to maximize the financial savings to the school. It allowed them to construct a more exciting and engaging space for the children. Given the magnitude of the grading and drainage the majority of the work was executed by earth moving contractors.

Volunteers helped with the planting of shrubs, grasses and spreading of engineered wood fiber. Many other helpful hands came together to help bring this project to life including the PTO, Columbine Landscaping, as well as parent and teacher volunteers.








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June 26, 2017, 11:53 pm PDT

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Last Updated 06-26-17