Alumnus builds largest and most diverse healing playscape in the country
As a 20-year-old college student at SNRE, Jonathan began his long-standing career as a systems-thinking innovator. Prior to receiving a degree in organizational change, he saw a need for a curbside recycling service in Ann Arbor. With a few like-minded colleagues and a pickup truck, Jonathan co-founded Recycle Ann Arbor, an organization now celebrating 40 years of success. More recently, after nearly 25 years of design and build work, Jonathan created one of the largest healing playscapes and gardens in the country for First Step, a domestic violence shelter serving women and families of Wayne County, Michigan. “A healing playscape is an outdoor space that supports the social, physical and most importantly, the emotional needs of clients and staff,” said Dreyfuss. “Simply put, this space was designed to support the clients and staff of First Step in their journey of healing after traumatic domestic violence cases.” In addition to being the ideal space to heal, the space has a number of “green” elements incorporated. A 2,000 gallon cistern holds water from the building roof and irrigates the gardens, and is an example of permaculture at its finest. The water wall and rock garden feature a porous paver that eliminates run-off and lets rainwater drain into the ground. How the 84,861 square foot healing playscape evolved is a story of thoughtful research, inspiration, and community engagement. In 2012, after exploring the benefits of play and nature, the First Step Board of Directors decided to build a playground on the new shelter site. A request for bids was sent out to several local playground companies and the top three were asked to submit plans. After interviewing several companies, the organization chose Dreyfuss’ Greenscape Systems. An idea man and a jack-of-all-trades, Jonathan has dabbled in high-end carpentry woodwork to restore historical properties in Detroit, MI, product development and inventions, and now supplies solar panels on a commercial scale. His mind has always been “wired to see new systems,” he said, and believes his education at SNRE led him on this unique path.