This article was written in July of 2014. Unfortunate, Castle Heights playground was dismantled in 2015 due to safety concerns by the community.
Off the beaten path, with just a small sign to identify it, is a hidden kingdom. A hidden kingdom that is ruled by one or many different monarchies depending on the time of day. While these monarchies could be in constant civil war, most often they live in peace together. In the same kingdom.
If only real life was like the Castle Heights Playground, our world would be a better place.
Let me just say that driving into Columbia Heights and using my GPS was not helpful. It wanted me to find it on the north side of 49th Avenue. The playground is not on the north side of 49th. So I drove back and forth and back and forth on 49th Avenue looking up and down the street when I finally saw the turrets behind the school–on the south side of the street.
To be fair, my friend had told me it was behind the school. I, however, didn’t use any common sense into the instructions and tried to figure out if behind meant north or if it meant south. Sometimes I just don’t know where I come up with these things.
The kids played in their kingdoms for hours while Melissa (my friend) and I kept moving with the shade.
The biggest disadvantage is that there is not a public bathroom nearby. I went into the District Offices/Family Center building to see if we could use their facilities, and we could not. In fact, they sent us across the street to the park where there was a portapotty on the other side of the fields. So we had to walk two full blocks for my 6 year old to be able to go to the bathroom. On the way back, we were able to sneak into the empty elementary school, so we learned it was useable if there were no kids, but I didn’t feel right about it. I was very disappointed with the Family Center. I am sure they have their reasons, but how family-UNfriendly.
After a while, we went exploring and found a student garden in a large, outdoor alcove. It was beautiful. Filled with tomatoes, carrots, peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, herbs, grapevine, potatoes, green beans, cherry trees, and so many other types of produce.
Blooming Heights Garden is its name.
Students maintain the garden, and once a week they open a market for the public to purchase fresh produce. On Wednesdays at 3:00 p.m. (give or take–since students are setting up the market, it may take a little longer than anticipated), in the front of the school–on 49th Ave., you can stop by their market and enjoy the fruits of their labor!
Castle Heights Playground and Blooming Heights Garden can be found together behind the high school/elementary school/early childhood education campus. And by behind I mean on the other side of the buildings from the road you are driving.
Good luck! And have fun storming the castle!
1400 49th Ave. NE, Columbia Heights, MN 55421