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Chesapeake Sensory Plaza water-based play area opens at Rockfield Park in Bel Air

The Chesapeake Sensory Plaza, a 5,000-square-foot water-themed play area, opened at Rockfield Park in Bel Air earlier this week.

Patterned after the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the plaza is built around a hands-on water feature that includes a 60-foot-long channel system that follows the natural topography of the site, according to a news release from the Town of Bel Air.

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The play area is " designed to encourage creativity, exploration and learning in a unique and interactive setting,” according to the news release.

“Chesapeake Sensory Plaza is an exciting new addition to Rockfield Park,” Bel Air Mayor Amy Chmielewski said. “Working together with American Water Charitable Foundation and Maryland American Water were vital to the project’s success and we are grateful for their support.”

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A $150,000 Building Better Communities grant donated by the American Water Charitable Foundation and administered by the nonprofit National Recreation and Park Association, helped pay for the bulk of the project. The grant program enables communities to build water and nature-inspired play spaces that highlight the importance of natural resources and the environment.

“Ensuring children and families can experience water and have access to water-based education and nature play spaces is key to building the next generation of environmental stewards,” said Karl Schrass, NRPA director of conservation. “We are proud to support the Chesapeake Sensory Plaza through our partnership with the American Water Charitable Foundation and encourage communities everywhere to explore the wonders of nature through their local parks and recreation.”

The American Water Charitable Foundation invests in programs that benefit communities served by American Water. Its subsidiary, Maryland American Water, has operated Bel Air’s water system for nearly 90 years.

The Dresher Foundation, the Greater Bel Air Community Foundation, the Bel Air Rotary, the Cultural Arts Commission and the Bel Air Recreation Committee provided additional funding for the project.

“This interactive water play space will bring families from throughout the region to learn about water and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed,” said Barry Suits, president, Maryland American Water. “Winters Run, the water source for the Bel Air community, is part of this great watershed and this project is testament to Maryland American Water’s dedication to the communities we serve.”

Design elements, including educational and interactive panels, provide information and fun facts about the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and conservation practices. The pathways to the site are illustrated as if viewing the watershed area from 30,000 feet above it and include forests and farmlands, as well as urban and suburban areas. Finally, natural elements and landscaping frame the project for additional context.

“Chesapeake Sensory Plaza helps people understand the health of the Chesapeake Bay is everyone’s responsibility”, says Kevin Small, project manager and director of planning for the Town of Bel Air. “It’s a natural place to teach children and their families about the Chesapeake Bay watershed and encourage conservation behaviors for today and future generations.”

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