Upper Arlington City Schools News Article

Community coming together again to reimagine beloved Wickliffe playground

Three children, one at the steering wheel of a wooden vehicle, on the wooden Wickliffe Progressive Elementary School castle playground

For more than three decades, the Wickliffe castle playground has inspired imaginative play for the children of Wickliffe Progressive Elementary School and also the entire Upper Arlington community. Such memories were made possible thanks to a true community effort to fundraise for the castle playground and then build it over five days in the spring of 1990.

“I was in 5th grade when we built it, and I remember it as my all-time favorite experience that I was part of in my 13 years with UA Schools,” shared Wickliffe alumnus Carrie Zartman Herkins. “My husband and I were lucky enough to remain in UA, and our boys grew up just two doors down from ‘mom’s playground.’ There have been many full circle moments watching them play here, and I get misty just thinking about the fact that my youngest (a current fifth-grader) will likely be the last class to go all the way through Wickliffe with the playground.”

After decades of love and use by the Upper Arlington community, the Wickliffe castle playground is indeed reaching the end of its useful lifespan. So, in the same community spirit that drove the creation of the castle playground, a group of volunteers — parents, students, alumni and staff members — have come together to create a new, iconic and inclusive playground space. Known as Wickliffe Woods, the conceptual playground design developed by Learning Landscapes incorporates elements of nature-based play, STEM and environmental learning that will continue to inspire the imaginations of children in this community for decades to come. 

“The concept for Wickliffe Woods truly reflects the heart and vision of the students, staff, families and community members actively engaged in the design process last year,” said Wickliffe Principal Angela Evans. “This is more than just a playground — we are creating a space for our school and the entire Upper Arlington community that reflects our educational values and is an inclusive gathering place that will support children and their well-being for generations to come.”

Volunteers are currently working with manufacturers to solidify equipment and a final price tag for the project. They anticipate needing to raise at least $600,000 to achieve the collective vision for Wickliffe Woods. The Upper Arlington school district, consistent with its past support for school playground projects, will cover the costs of removal of the castle structure, site preparations for installation, landscaping, and future maintenance. 

This fall, the entire Wickliffe community will be coming together for this project with a fun run. The goal is to raise $40,000, including a fundraising match from the Wickliffe PTO. 

“As we embark on our fundraising campaign, the Wickliffe Woods team is thrilled to honor such a UA treasure,” said Susanne Wolf, parent volunteer. “Our efforts are both playground building and community building.”

If you are interested in learning more about the Wickliffe Woods project or in making a financial contribution, please visit www.wickliffeplayground.com or email [email protected]

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