Sunday, October 12, 2014
I realized while sitting in Sunday School that over a week had gone by since our last park trip… not a good sign if we wish to accomplish our goal. So as soon as the bell rang, I picked up the kids, sped off to NuWay burger for a quick bite, and then headed south to our first “large” park: Herman Hill.
Dear Reader, you should be aware that there is a LOT to say about this park… and I’ve saved the best for the very end of the post!
Location: 101 E. Pawnee
Parking: There are two parking lots, one on the west side near the Water Center, and one on the east side next to the playground. Both are accessible from either Pawnee or Broadway.
A little history: The park was acquired in 1932 and was named after Herman A. Hill, the 34th mayor of Wichita from 1930-1931.
I had heard great things about this park from others but this was our first visit. We were not disappointed!
First of all, the park offers lovely rolling hills with many trees that would tempt any young tree-climber. The great number of cottonwoods (which became our official state tree in 1937) allowed me to show the boys how to find the star in the knuckles of cottonwood twigs (see below). The boys were appropriately awestruck with their mother’s arboreal knowledge.
There are also nine picnic tables placed under these trees, definitely a choice spot for family picnics! For those after-the-picnic potty breaks there is also a small shelter with bathrooms, but I must say that the metal toilets will give your buns a shock in the colder months.
As the sign states, Herman Hill is also a great place to bring your disc (ie. Frisbee) for a round of golf. We unfortunately came unprepared, but this gives us all the more reason to return. Sani took a few practice throws at Hole 11.
Sani and Z-Dawg were most pleased to discover the playground. This playground consists of one play structure that includes multiple monkey bar configurations, a twist-and-turn climber, chimney climber (the red tube-shaped climber), two pairs of slides with the tennis shoe markings that prove they are well-used, a suspension bridge, two types of rock climbing walls, an overhead spinning wheel, pod steps, and even a little rhyming reminder to conserve water. All of this is placed over a rubber safety surface…which is a clear winner for parents who don’t want to bring home buckets of sand or chopped up tires in their kids’ shoes.
One of the coolest features of this park is the Water Center. Again, we were unaware of this hidden gem so we missed seeing inside the center on this day and will have to return on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday from 1:00-4:00 pm. Apparently the center offers Family Adventure Packs that can be borrowed for FREE while at Herman Hill Park. Themes include Up In the Air, Under Water, and Around Town. If you’d rather do your environmental learning at home, there are also FREE Discovery Boxes that can be checked out for two weeks at a time. Each box contains hands-on materials, environmental activities and story books.
Even if you arrive on a day when the Water Center is closed, you can still enjoy their many fountains (and learn why the fountains are sprouting all sorts of vegetation) and an outdoor aquarium. The aquarium glass is dark and greenish, but if you get up close you will see fresh water fish of all shapes and sizes!
A drum roll please… we have now come to the BEST FEATURE of Herman Hill Park!
Herman Hill has a self-guided Nature Trail with it’s own color guidebook! Follow the trail and you will encounter water fowl, babbling brooks, birdhouses both man and bird made, neon-colored plants, hidden paths to explore, poetry, and multiple opportunities to learn about our water system past and present…which is actually quite captivating! I am including just a little taste below, but it took us a whole hour to explore the relatively short trail as there was so much to do and see.