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15.10.2020 - Ausgabe: 5/2020

Water play experience with T-Rex, Triceratops & Co.

©Koenig / Ernst Maier Spielplatzgeräte GmbH

“The old water playground had seen better days,” says Wildpark Poing (Poing Wildlife Park) Manager Josef Festl explaining the construction of the dinosaur-themed water playground. “Besides, we needed a water play area with a larger capacity to enable more children to play there.” 

The only requirement imposed by Josef Festl was to develop a facility that would allow as many children as possible to be active. His idyllic wildlife park, covering an area of 570,000 square metres, is experiencing an ever-increasing rush of visitors. Apart from that, Josef Festl gave Roland Koenig, product developer at Ernst Maier Spielplatzgeräte GmbH, a free hand in the thematic and functional design of the new water playground. A suitable theme was quickly found: “Children love dinosaurs and these prehistoric giants are naturally a perfect fit for a wildlife park,” says Roland Koenig. Based on his hand-drawn design, a multifunctional water play area was created, which allows a large number of kids of all ages to spend hours exploring, exercising, learning and playing. Josef Festl liked the idea of combining creative water features with giant dinosaurs in his wildlife park – and so the planning process could begin.

A team of experts from NRT landscape architects, Niedermeier Garten- und Landschaftsbau GmbH, Ernst Maier Spielplatzgeräte GmbH, Planungsbüro für Energie- und Gebäudetechnik GmbH (PEG), X³ Architekten, as well as the companies Kölbl and LH-Elektro was put together for the implementation of this large-scale project. “The water play area in the Poing Wildlife Park is so far the most demanding water play project that we had the privilege to implement in the 38 years of our company history,” says Georg Bachmeier, Sales Manager of Ernst Maier Spielplatzgeräte GmbH. 

Markus Türk, who took over the complex ground modelling of the project with his team from the Marzling-based NRT planning office, also confirms: “This was certainly one of the most challenging projects that we have ever implemented.” 

The NRT team developed a playscape at different levels for the gently sloping and relatively small site. They mainly used hard surfaces whose material properties were designed for intensive use, were waterproof and hence water-bearing. “Mr. Festl gave us a free hand in the choice of materials,” Markus Türk is pleased to say, “so we were able to use high-quality, local natural stone material.” Consequently, premium-quality natural stone from the Bavarian forest was used for the ground modelling. “The three-dimensional natural stone elements add additional play value to the play area,” explains the graduate landscape architect. 

After several months of planning and construction work, the time had finally come in early August 2020, just in time for the heat wave with temperatures climbing to over 35 °C: after the free-ranging peacocks of the wildlife park had frequently overcome the site fence to explore the new area, the dinosaur-themed water playground could now be opened to visitors young and old. Since then, children have been playing, climbing, splashing around, spraying water and exploring in the direct vicinity of wild boars and goats. “The children spend hours on end playing and trying everything out,” says Wildlife Park Manager Josef Festl. “Especially when it is very hot, an extremely large number of children spend time there. Unfortunately, the current situation means that we have to deploy staff to make sure that children keep the required minimum distance when playing in compliance with the Covid-19 protective measures.” 

One of the highlights of the water playground is the 6.50 m high Tyrannosaurus Rex, which can be climbed from the inside. “It can be controlled from the ground by various water pumps, so that it either spits water and activates the water wheel in its claws or sprays water from its nostrils,” explains product developer Roland Koenig. Next to the T-Rex, you will find the Pterosaur rotary sprinkler. The colourful pterosaurs can be set in motion by aiming at palm leaves with huge water guns. Of course, the water guns around the dinosaurs are also ideal for hitting other “targets”. It can be observed that not only children have a lot of fun splashing, spraying and dousing each other with water in hot summer weather. Also many mums, dads, grandmas and grandpas can’t help but drench their often unsuspecting family members. The water guns and jets are controlled by switching pumps, which can be used to activate different water outlets. 

Right next to the Tyrannosaurus Rex there is the Triceratops – here at the latest, it is advisable to wear the swimming trunks mentioned before. Two pumps in the dinosaur’s head control the nozzles in its ribcage, which are sure to cool anyone inside the Triceratops off.

Another water pump controls an outlet on the Stegosaurus. Water flows into the downstream channels via water wheels attached to its head. In addition, the Stegosaurus provides climbing and sliding opportunities. 

The water, which is released by the three dinosaurs and the water jets and sprinklers in the upper part of the water playground, finally flows in paved channels into a catch basin in the lower part of the area. 

The lower play area features many facilities for damming and diverting water. In the centre of the water playground there is a paved ammonite, whose coils can be climbed up to a mushroom fountain in the middle. Its calm and steady water flow can be increased to a fountain by a water pump. The water flows back into the catch basin via the coils. “We found the ammonite to be the most challenging element of this project in terms of design and construction,” says landscape architect Markus Türk. After all, the paved coils had to be helically spiralled, evenly inclined and be at a height that would ensure that the above-mentioned paved channels would be fed into the ammonite and discharged into the catch basin. 

Another landscape architectural highlight for Markus Türk was the design of the Brontosaurus Hill, with several crawl tubes running through it. Water pumps, basins, channels on the hill as well as a sand play area encourage even the youngest children to immerse themselves in imaginative and creative sand and water play. Water channels and basins in the front and rear hill area form the head and tail of the brontosaurus. The hill is also connected to two explorer’s huts – a small cottage and a large slide tower from the Fiasko range, allowing young explorers to take in views of the new dinosaur-themed water playground at the Poing Wildlife Park. In addition, the two towers provide many opportunities for children to test their motor skills by climbing and balancing. 

For Josef Festl, the new water playground is a “component of a large mosaic”. “The whole concept must be coherent and there must be something for everyone, including adults,” says the manager of Germany’s most species-rich wildlife park. Josef Festl is constantly further developing the concept of his wildlife park with great sensitivity, always putting the welfare of his animals first. For him, this concept also includes a varied range of play activities for children of all ages. “People come and spend the whole day in order to enjoy what the wildlife park has to offer without time pressure,” says Josef Festl. 

Soon visitors can look forward to another toddler area with many spring rockers and sand play opportunities. After spending a day at the Poing Wildlife Park, almost every child will fall into a satisfied and well-deserved deep slumber on their way home. 

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