NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — Charlie Jobson enjoyed his time at Colene Hoose Elementary School so much that his family foundation donated $5.1 million to construct and upkeep a natural playground. The Ilse and Charlie Jobson Natural Playground is now open.
“A lot of craftsmanship and artisanship went into every piece of this park,” Jobson said.
Jobson recruited landscape architect Helle Nebelong to design the playground. She was only about to visit once before completion but said she still feels like she knows every inch of the area.
“It’s so familiar to me to come here. It’s exactly how I wanted it to be and it looks so good,” said Nebelong. “And nothing has surprised me because it is as I figured out it should be and it looks totally like this. So, that’s great news.”
Nebelong also involved the students in the design process. The mosaic river includes fish designed by more than 300 students.
“They made a long list and sent over their wishes for the playground. I tried to somehow put them into different spaces,” she said.
Adam Bienestock’s company built the playground. He described the playground as a sponge.
“This project takes 100% of the water from 16 acres from a 2-acre roof and makes it disappear on this site without storm drains. It absorbs every drop,” he said.
Bienestock also said the playground is a climate change project that includes 180 trees and more than 1,000 shrubs and plants that are native to the area.
“There is also a whole project concept where you don’t take a drop of soil off a site like this. So, all of the hills that you see are a result of us moving 400,000 cubic yards of material on this site to create the valleys and the hills and the changes of topography,” he said. “And when you’ve done a project like this, it’s mimicking a river. It’s as if a river was flowing before we got here. And that’s what deposited all of these hills and all of these valleys. It flows like a river.
Jobson is happy to see it all come together.
“It’s a work of art in itself, and it’s a fragment of consciousness of all the individual artists that got put into a real form,” he said.
The park is open to the public after school hours, on the weekends, and when school is not in session.