On a recent sunny Monday, about a half-dozen childrens’ bikes were parked at Criddle Park with no owners in sight.

The small, “pocket” park on Monroe Street just north of Main Street gets a lot of traffic from kids waiting for their school bus, parks and recreation director Dan Glynn told the Hub, and many stay to play a bit before and after school.

So as the park’s equipment wore out, Glynn said his department undertook an “intensive” public input process to hear what the park’s users wanted to see there.

Glynn said his department got feedback over 18 months from about 100 kids and neighbors of the park during conversations at community events and neighborhood barbeques, and the overwhelming response was that they wanted a “tree house feature” with a natural feel similar to what is already at the park.

On May 14, the Common Council approved spending up to $45,000 for GRG Playscapes to design and install what’s called a “natural/adventure playground” at Criddle Park. Work will start once school lets out for the summer, Glynn wrote in an email, and is expected to be complete by the end of July.

Adventure playgrounds incorporate natural building materials and use the site’s topography to “foster wonder and imagination by creating small worlds for children to explore,” according to GRG’s website. Glynn told the council this type of park leads to more imaginative play than typical plastic, prefabricated playgrounds.

The bid was $2,000 more than the other two bids it received, but was the only one that had the natural feel the community wanted.

The wooden structures tend to wear out faster and can be more expensive to maintain than their plastic counterparts, Glynn said, but people tend to prefer using them.

He told the Hub his department is looking at the Criddle Park installation as a sort of test run, because he’s heard many neighbors asking for their local park to get natural installations, as well.

The lifespan is probably half or two-thirds that of a typical prefabricated one, Glynn said, but GRG offers a 10-year warranty on the major structural components, which are made of black locust, and two-year warranties for the decks, which are made of cedar.

GRG has an easy online portal to request warranty replacements and a woodshop in Evansville that fills the orders, making it easy for parks staff to replace elements that might wear out.

Contact Alexander Cramer at alexander.cramer@wcinet.com.