A haven for the littlest learners at Naper Settlement is on its way.
Designs have come together and collaborations are forming around the Fort Payne Learning Playscape to be built on the south end of the settlement's property.
The playscape, designed for kids ages 3 to 7, will offer a splash pad and climbing areas as well as a connection to one of the fort's blockhouses that will be rebuilt after a fire in May.
"The playscape is to reach our youngest visitors, our preschoolers," settlement spokeswoman Donna DeFalco said. "It'll have a splash pad -- the water feature. It'll have a climbing area and a lot of other elements focused on the young learner."
Collaborating to bring the splash pad to the playscape is the Naperville Park District, which on Thursday night voted unanimously to contribute $25,000 toward construction of the interactive water feature.
Executive Director Ray McGury said the splash pad at the playscape will be the park district's first when it is built starting next summer. If it's a hit among residents, the park district may look into building more such water play areas at other parks, he said.
In an agreement that governs the park district's commitment of funding toward the roughly $450,000 learning playscape, the settlement pledged to offer Naperville residents free admission to its property for at least three years after the new play area opens. DeFalco said in a separate move, the settlement's board has committed to keeping admission free for Naperville residents for at least five years.
"The (park) board agreed this was a good expenditure of money," McGury said about the playscape. "Especially when the settlement is open free for Naperville residents."
Wight & Company and Hitchcock Design Group have finished designs for the interactive play area that call for it to be incorporated into the fort, which volunteers built in 1979 based on Naperville's original Fort Payne built in 1832.
DeFalco said the settlement plans to seek grants and continue fundraising for the rest of the $450,000 it will take to build the learning playscape that should give young kids and their parents a new way to experience local history in Naperville.
"It will be a great opportunity for Naperville residents to come and enjoy the settlement and the brand-new playscape that's a collaborative effort," DeFalco said.