The Virginia Zoo just broke ground on a new nature play area

The zoo's newest feature, a nature play area will open this summer. (Southside Daily Photo/courtesy of the Virginia Zoo)
The zoo’s newest feature, a nature play area will open this summer. (Southside Daily Photo/courtesy of the Virginia Zoo)

NORFOLK — The Virginia Zoo announced Thursday the addition of a Nature Play area set to open this summer on zoo grounds.

The funding for the new play area came from several grants the zoo was awarded, including $25,000 from the Rotary District 7600, Norfolk Rotary Charities, Inc., Norfolk sunrise Rotary and the Virginia Beach Rotary Club Foundation.

Zoo officials said Nature Play is unstructured and informal play that incorporates the natural and surrounding landscape and vegetation to bring nature to children’s daily outdoor play and learning environments.

Nature play is proven to powerfully boost the cognitive, creative, physical, social and emotional development of children, according to the zoo.

“The Virginia Zoo is committed to building the experience of nature into childhood,” said Greg Bockheim, the zoo’s executive director. “We aim to promote and strengthen children’s outdoor learning experiences to help the next generation become more environmentally minded and move the future in a more sustainable direction.”

The nearly 1-acre play area will be near the zoo’s Flora Point section of the park.

Nature Play will feature tree stumps and pieces to be used as climbing, walking, and jumping structures, as well as a sandbox for digging, a sensory walk, willow tunnel and a bamboo maze.

In addition to being open to the public daily for free-play, the area will be used for informal, free programming from the Education Department, according to the zoo.

New bathrooms, which have been donated by the City of Norfolk, have also been installed and will open this Spring.

The zoo will host a Family Volunteer Day on May 4 where volunteers can assist with a variety of projects, including constructing aspects of the play area.

For more information on the Family Volunteer Day visit, virginiazoo.org/family-volunteer-day.

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