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Darden Towe Park


Darden Towe Park, Darden Towe Park, Charlottesville, VA, USA

Best Nature Play Themes

Park Narrative Summary & Directions

There is a large, open, unmarked route parallel to the river leading from the parking lot to the bend. own along the wash at the bend in the river. This route is in the floodplain of the Rivanna and along it are lots of fallen trees to scramble on, plenty of driftwood and rocks to collect, build with, and use as tools, and numerous highpoints to look out over the river on both sides of the bend. On the inland side there is a box elder grove to explore and play tag on sandy ground, lots of small plants growing out of sand, big stick fort that’s a home base as shelter and high points to look out on the river on two sides. Downhill of the Lewis and Clark exploratory center there is a creek with large river birches, climbing vines, and exciting riffles in the water. Where this creek meets the river (two lefts and a right across the creek from the discovery center) there is a beautiful cove of calm water, large river birch in the floodplain and a gravely bar for digging, splashing, and swimming.

All Nature Play Themes

Risk Play Opportunities

In the floodplain here there are numerous opportunities for balancing opportunities on big logs and uneven, sandy ground to run and scramble over. At the creek, children would be able to cross the water or hang on a vine over the water, which is risky yet not dangerous.

Transportation Infrastructure

Driving and parking

Accessibility Considerations

In the floodplain, often the routes are not too steep, but they are too sandy for easy access. At the creek, the banks are often eroded and too steep for access or require crossing over stones in the creek to access the play zone. One major problem is the lack of benches which diminish accessibility for differently abled parents/grandparents who might be with the children here (especially as this park needs to be driven to).

Safety Factors

Down in the floodplain most of the areas feel safe due to the good sightlines to the main path from play areas and the multiple exit (yet constrained entrance) routes. At the creek, there are fewer exits and it feels more exposed except at the cove where there is calm water and a sense of hiddenness.

Ecological Educational Opportunities

The floodplain provides many educational opportunities to observe the normal river birch and disturbance prone box elder as well as sandy berms and log decomposition to understand the frequency and history of floods. There is evidence of litter collecting from floods and large debris collected which provides opportunities for learning about river pollution. Along the creek, there is bank erosion which provides another educational opportunity for learning about disturbed hydrological systems.