The next time you visit a Maricopa County park, you may find some of the critters you spot on the playground are larger than life. That’s because five 20-year-old play areas have gotten upgrades that include giant structures based on desert animals like rattlesnakes and mountain lions.

Improvements are being made to Cave Creek, Estrella Mountain, McDowell Mountain, and White Tank Mountain regional parks, as well as Mesa’s own Usery Mountain Regional Park.

The newly renovated playgrounds feature mountain lion and arch boulders, rope wall link climbers, fallen cactus balance beams, climbing boulders, spider web climbers, cactus fossil rock steppers and cactus-themed T-swings. The playgrounds also feature large shade structures to keep youngsters cooler while they play.

An engineered wood fiber ground cover will form a compacted layer that cushions falls (and is passable for strollers, wheelchairs and crutches).

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