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Museum for kids taking shape

  • Tom Bowes, left, Jared Nelson and Daniel Ditommaso work on a boardwalk along the water ecosystem feature at the Children's Museum of Sonoma County, in Santa Rosa on Monday, October 21, 2013. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

There's still much more to come in the months ahead as the Children's Museum of Sonoma County gets ready to open its gates to the public and set young minds loose on the world of creative exploration.

But it's already pretty hard to resist the urge to splash through the cascading waters out front or clamber over the boulders along the shore of a realistic river now under construction.

A full-scale mock-up of the Sonoma County Main Street indoors proves equally alluring to the child in anyone — full of cubbyholes and passageways, garrets and a lattice-like structure that eventually will be part of a treehouse with a spiral slide and pulley system for collaborative play.

Children's Museum Of Sonoma County

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Barely even a dream eight years ago, the children's museum set to open next year in its permanent digs on West Steele Lane in Santa Rosa finally feels real, with construction under way and the first of its installations beginning to take shape.

Though $1 million still needs to be raised toward its $8.3 million cost, it's possible now to envision how the museum's colorful schematics will translate into three-dimensional, interactive exhibits full of motion, energy and intrigue.

Construction started several months ago — mostly underground electrical work, trenching and storm drain installation. Earlier this month, two representatives from an Illinois company specializing in naturalistic water features joined up with a crew of local contractors to build a 65-foot representation of the Russian River in front of the museum.

Framed by more than 100 tons of boulder and other rock, the river includes a headwaters, waterfall and wetland area in which native Russian River plants will be grown. The water — which circulates at a rate of 20,000 gallons an hour — will be cleaned through a natural filtration process that uses enzymes, beneficial bacteria and layered pebbles.

Several bubbling boulders perched atop a gravel bed that kids will be able to play on help oxygenate the water and provide a fun place to play.

"The whole idea behind this is, to me, the local environment," said Ed Beaulieu, who helped design the river on behalf of Aquascape, a St. Charles, Ill., company that donated a significant portion of the work.

For Collette Michaud, the museum's founder and chief executive, the river installation was a landmark moment.


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