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Natural Playscapes: Pond and Playground Oasis in City Backyard

Even though they live in a bustling, high-traffic part of Brooklyn, NY, this client wanted her children to experience the same interaction with nature that she had as a child,.

The finished natural playscape we created is reminiscent of a secret cove on a desert island. It boasts a swimming pond with a beach-style entry, three waterfalls, a rock climbing wall, a pirate-ship-style tree house, rope bridge, swings, exercise rings/bar, and three bubble-rock water features.

The heart of the project is, of course, its eco-friendly pond, which for the present is shallow — only 8” deep. It is deep enough so the young children can swim and play in it. However, we also constructed the pond to “grow” with them. It is actually a deeper pond with boulders that are covered with fabric and gravel which, when they are older, can be removed, exposing a full-sized pond they can stock with koi, offering an entirely different experience for more mature children.

 

Natural Playscape with Pond:

Natural Playscape with Pond:

Deck and Patio designed/built this city oasis (above), as a temporary 8” shallow pond, for younger children which can be easily turned into a full-size koi pond when the children get older. Stepping stones lead from the playhouse across the pond to a patio at the back of the house.

 

Pond with Beach-Style Entry:

Pond with Beach-Style Entry:

Crushed stone used elsewhere on the property for rainwater harvesting was also used to make a fabulous beach-style entry into the pond. Such entries are an ideal element of a natural swimming pond that is bordered by plants and natural boulders.

 

Natural Swimming Ponds:

Natural Swimming Ponds:

Instead of using any chemicals to keep the pond healthy, it is designed as a natural eco-system. To accomplish this, we used all Aquascape Inc. (St. Charles, IL) equipment and components: Skimmer, Biofalls, Pump, and Liner. Aerated by three beautiful waterfalls, the water stays pristine and healthy; much to the joy of the children, the pond attracts beneficial wildlife like frogs, which also eat unwanted insects.

 

Backyard Rope Bridge:

Backyard Rope Bridge:

What young child doesn’t enjoy imagining they are one of the Swiss Family Robinsons…or Jack Sparrow himself! From this rope bridge, they can watch for other pirates, ferocious child-eating animals, and all fearsome enemies.

 

Home Rock Climbing Wall:

Home Rock Climbing Wall:

Children who have to fight pirates and wild animals need to keep in shape. What better way than to have a rock climbing wall as part of their tree-house getaway.

 

Rope Ladder:

Rope Ladder:

No self-respecting defender of a tree-house castle would enter any other way but on a rope ladder.

 

Bluestone Patio:

Bluestone Patio:

At the edge of the children’s inter-active playground is a bluestone patio with deep seating and fire heater where adults can hang out and enjoy the waterfalls and bubble-rock features, while the children save the world from pirates.

 

 

Natural Swimming Ponds: Embracing the Pond Life

According to reports, across ‘the pond’ in Europe, natural swimming ponds have grown in appeal for a quarter of a century. Here at home, however, North Americans have not yet joined the craze with equal zeal. While swimming au naturel (chemical free) certainly appeals to health-conscious North Americans, some can’t get over sharing their backyard swimming water with — ewww — bugs, tadpoles, let alone pond fish.

This, however, may be changing. After all, a man-made natural pond is no different from swimming in a lake, swimming hole, or swimming in the ocean. Who hasn’t brushed up against seaweed, or snorkeled to enjoy colorful fish? And, indeed, in recent years, Deck and Patio has been asked to create man-made ponds on Long Island for the pure enjoyment of swimming in them.

In a recent post on Aquascape Inc.’s website entitled: Growing Up Around a Pond, the writer focuses on the ’10 most interesting things’ she has learned from having just such a pond:

          all bacteria is not bad;

          swimming in a pond is more fun than in a pool;

          ponds are wondrous at night;

          ponds are better than TV or video games.

We would have to agree with her. Snorkeling in a regular swimming pool isn’t all that exciting.

Don’t let the bugs bug you:

Unchecked by the chemicals of a regular swimming pool, the odd dragonfly will no doubt flit across your natural pond’s surface. You may spy a salamander at its edge. And frogs (who eat the more undesirable insects around your pond) may parent some tadpoles in any natural pond. And if there’s koi in your pond, you’ll want to keep them healthy and free of disease.

That aside, swimming in a pristine natural pond is very possible and thrilling. Using the right underlayment, liner, Biofalls and skimmers, bog filtration and water plants are part of creating the perfect experience. Detailed information on how to do this can be found on such helpful websites as Aquascape Inc’s, and local pond experts can aid you in keeping your water clean, and your fish healthy.

 

Swimming with the Koi:

Swimming with the Koi:

The homeowner who wrote the Aquascape Inc. blog “Growing Up Around a Pond” included this photo of her son encouraging a friend to join him in the pond. Photo: Courtesy of Aquascape Inc.

 

 

Natural Swimming Pond:

Natural Swimming Pond:

This pond is one of two ponds these clients had us create in their yard which overlooks Long Island Sound. Now you may think that our beautiful model is avoiding the ‘ewwww’ factor by using a floating device. But as you’ll see from the next photo below, she’s not bothered at all by healthy pond life. Indeed, this pond is pure and clean — a joy to swim in.

 

 

Pristine Swimming Ponds (Long Island/NY):

Pristine Swimming Ponds (Long Island/NY):

A key factor in a good natural swimming pond is to build it big and deep enough so that you can snorkel as well as have room to swim.

 

 

Koi Ponds (Long Island/NY):

Koi Ponds (Long Island/NY):

Some ponds, like this one, is intended as a koi pond and not a natural swimming pond. One way to ensure you pond is sufficiently pristine for swimming is not to overload it with koi or other pond fish. This allows the aquatic plants and filtration systems the ability to absorb and “clean” the pond sufficiently for an enjoyable swim.

 

 

Vanishing Edge/Infinity Pond (Long Island/NY):

Vanishing Edge/Infinity Pond (Long Island/NY):

This pond is an infinity pond, one of the first done in North America. The project includes a stream, waterfalls, a second lower pond, and a natural biological filtration system that is continuously maintaining the feature’s crystal-clear water.