YORBA LINDA — For every kid who never had a back-yard fort, or whose only experiences playing in the mud landed him or her in trouble, this was nirvana.
Billed as "The World's Largest Tree Fort," a complex of 13 tree forts built by local kids this summer at Hurless Barton Park drew more than 300 visitors Saturday to witness the project's finale.
"My mom won't let me build a fort in our back yard, so it was really fun to build one here," said 10-year-old Scot Klein, who proudly took his father and sister on a tour of the forts, made with donated wood and connected by catwalks.
The program, sponsored by the city, gives participants a chance to learn how to use a hammer and nails. They worked for six weeks under the supervision of a trained professional and some college students, said organizer Kevin Kjer.
"We called the Guinness Book of World Records and hope that they'll come out and take a look at it," Kjer said. "It's certainly the biggest fort I've ever seen."
The playground also featured an elaborate water slide with a temporary, man-made lake, a whiffle ball field and a giant mud pit.
Wearing a pair of red-, purple- and green-striped shorts, 13-year-old Matt Foster came barreling down the water slide like a laser beam, then performed an impressive belly flop as he hit the water.
"We had a belly flop contest earlier," he explained later. "I'm practicing for next year. This is my favorite thing in the playground, because you go really fast."
Standing nearby at the mud pit, 7-year-old Elizabeth Johnson waited patiently for her turn.
With her teeth chattering and red hair matted to the side of her face, the ebullient, freckle-faced youngster smiled widely as she climbed onto the platform, grabbed onto the pulley and careened over the muddy water.
"It was fun!" she announced as she climbed out of the pit. "It was cold. I felt like I was going into mud!"
Bob York, wearing a black T-shirt that read, "Aging Gracefully," volunteered to be the first parent to drop into the pit.
"It takes you back a little," said York, 40. "I don't remember doing anything this fun when I was a kid."
York, who moved to Yorba Linda last year, said he waited in line for three hours earlier this summer to register his children for the program.
"I didn't understand what the big deal was," he said. "But now, seeing all this and knowing all the fun my kids had working on the fort, it was well worth it."
Karen Browning, 36, climbed a wooden ladder into the fort and, after a brief tour, seemed at a loss as to how to get down.
"There's nothing to hold onto!" she complained to another parent as she began her descent.
"This is the best program around," she said on the ground, after catching her breath. "I sure wouldn't let my son build a fort in our back yard or play in the mud at home. So, he gets to come here and do all those things every day with his friends."