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     Remember when you had hours of fun simply playing in a sand or dirt pile? Your toys were sticks, rocks, and cups. You made mud pies, truck lanes, and deep holes in the sand. You got dirty, but you had the time of your life.
     Tara Armistead designed the first Nature Play in Nashville at Warner Park, where kids can explore the outdoors in a safe unstructured place. The play area includes a cedar playhouse, two dirt piles where kids can slide into a huge sandpit. Plus, there is a spigot that funnels water into the dirt. You can enter through a bright ladybug gate on a rustic twig fence.
     In its first year, this Nature Play has connected over 5,000 children with nature. Its success illustrates how unstructured play outdoors has a positive impact on healthy childhood development and creativity, and how it aleviates ADHA, child obesity, and stress.
     Tara has continued to design successful Nature Play projects for schools, daycare centers, and nature centers by integrating the unique natural features of the site with input from community workshops and classroom visits. Recent Nature Play features include a Beaver Fort, a Tree Maze, and a recycled Raincatcher.

Nature Play from Dolly Carlisle on Vimeo.


     I have worked with Tara Armistead for over 25 years on a wide variety of projects and programs. From preservation plans and master planning, native landscape design and exotic pest plant projects, educational programs, development of the nature center grounds and a teaching pond to most recently the design and development of nature play areas at the Warner Park Nature Center and the Shelby Bottoms Nature Center.
     Tara is extremely talented, enthusiastic, creative and supportive. She listens to staff, volunteers and the public and cares about our mission and the environment. Her engaging and beautiful designs have enabled us to raise private funds and add partners to make ideas and plans become realities. Through the years I have also come to know Tara as a park volunteer and friend. She and her family love the outdoors, are regular park users and have perennially supported Metro Parks.

Sandy Bivens
Superintendent of Nature Centers, Metro Nashville Parks and Recreation