Incorporating the Natural Landscape in Greenspace Design

Slide at Rush Creek Lodge playground in Yosemite, California

Incorporating the natural landscape into the design of a project is a key element for us here at Grounded Strategies. A popular trend in natural landscape design that has evolved over the past decade is to adapt the slope of an existing hill or embankment into a surface intended for a slide.

Author Jeff Link outlines the benefits of integrating the natural environment into a landscape design in his article Hill and Embankment Slides Mark a Golden Age for Playground Slides. Installing a slide on a natural embankment reduces the risk of fall injury while still ensuring the length and slope that a slide needs in order to function. In addition, the contours of the environment become fun assets in the play experience. For example, boulders can be utilized to create a unique obstacle course on the way up to the top of the slide. Naturally-built slides can be a striking centerpiece of a green space for children.

Natural environments are an essential part of our Green Playces Initiative, a project formed out of research we conducted in 2014 that examined the trends in environmental education and vacant land in Pittsburgh neighborhoods. There is substantial research that emphasizes how natural environments allow open-ended play experiences that encourage exploration and discovery for children.

In 2016, we worked with local partners in the Hilltop neighborhood to transform a vacant lot into Green Playce: Hilltop.  In collaboration with the Allentown Learning and Engagement Center, we worked with local children to redesign the lot, a project that included a yellow slide that is built on the natural slope of the lot. This beautiful Green Playce is prime example of incorporating the natural environment.

Children enjoying the slide built into the natural landscape at the Hilltop Green Playce.


Source: Link, Jeff. “Hill and Embankment Slides Mark a Golden Age for Playground Slides.” Goric Marketing Group USA, Inc., 5 Sept. 2018,

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