Friendship Grove Nature Playscape




1505 N. Broadway Urbana, IL 61801

Questions & Group Visit Scheduling: 217-384-4062




Open daily, sunrise to sunset



  • Get dirty.
  • Touch it all.
  • Leave everything here.
  • Leave pets at home.
  • Be respectful of others.
  • Use rocks and sticks for creating, not for throwing or fighting.
  • Explore. Pretend. Make friends. Be safe. Have fun!

Climbing features are intended for ages 5-12. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Call 217-384-4062 in advance for groups of 10 or more people to help find an optimal time to visit.


The Friendship Grove Nature Playscape at the Anita Purves Nature Center is here!

This unique and interactive playscape engages children of all ages in imaginative and active outdoor play with nature. It is a hands-on, kid-directed outdoor play space for our kids where fun in nature is led by their own imagination and ingenuity. Together, you and your children are immersed in nature as you comfortably explore, experiment, socialize, and manipulate the environment. The playscape provides a multitude of accessible play opportunities for a variety of physical, mental, cognitive, and emotional abilities. There are four main features or “anchor pieces” as well as additional play features that will change with the seasons.

Four Anchor Pieces:

  1. Fort – Imagine all the ways you can use this multi-purpose structure.
  2. Fallen Tree – Use large muscles to climb, jump and balance; search for signs of wildlife.
  3. Digging Area – Get dirty and have fun playing on the ground with friends. 
  4. Tunnel – Crawl and traverse this hill/tunnel combination.


The Urbana Park District is accepting donations of "loose parts for play".

Donations will be accepted at the Anita Purves Nature Center during open hours: M-F 8am-5pm & Sat 9am-4pm.




Thank you to all of our generous donors and to everyone who participated in the Nature Play Challenge fundraising event!

The park district has reached its goal of raising $10,000 to bring every feature of the playscape to life!

Donations are still being accepted and will allow the playscape to change and grow over time.

Make a donation online and read more about the vision, history and progress of the playscape project, including recent photos and updates, at

Questions? Want to make a significant or named gift? Contact Ellen Kirsanoff, UPD Development Manager, at or 217-367-1536.




Why does the Urbana Park District need a Nature Playscape?

Part of the UPD’s mission is to pursue excellence in a variety of programs, parks and special facilities that contribute to the attractiveness of neighborhoods, conservation of the environment and the overall health of the community. The Friendship Grove Nature Playscape fulfills the mission by giving children the opportunity to explore and play freely in nature. Research shows that children who play frequently in nature experience improved creativity and problem solving, increased physical activity, reduced symptoms of ADD, and better social relations, among other benefits. Furthermore, children who play in nature are more likely to become environmental stewards in their lifetime.

Because children are not permitted off-trail in district natural areas like Busey Woods, and few families have a diverse natural setting in their own backyards, UPD is providing a place where children can explore nature without compromising the rest of the district’s over 300 acres of natural habitat. More than 40,000 people visit Busey Woods annually including over 3,000 school children. The Friendship Grove Nature Playscape concentrates the impact of play to one small area and protects the district’s natural areas.


Did you know that nature play has academic, social and physical benefits?

Research shows that children who play in natural settings play in more diverse, imaginative, and creative ways and show improved language and collaboration skills. Unlike single-use play equipment, nature play offers endless variety and opportunities for multi-sensory exploration, as children learn about the natural world in a wide variety of ways. The park district’s nature-inspired, child-driven playscape will foster creative play among visitors of all ages and abilities as they make discoveries and interact with their environment.

Regular contact with nature is associated with:

  • Increased physical activity
  • Improved creativity and problem solving
  • Enhanced ability to focus
  • Reduced symptoms of ADD
  • Better academic performance
  • Better social relations
  • Improved self-control

Check out these websites to learn more about the importance of nature play: