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Supplement Feature - April 2014

Bling It On!

Accessorizing With Site Furnishings & Amenities

By Kelli Ra Anderson


The secret is out. From the supermodel on the Paris runway to the landscape designer downtown, they know that "bling"—the accessory—has the power to elevate blah to beautiful.

Whether you are outfitting a neighborhood park, campground, city plaza or sports field, when site furnishings and amenities accessorize a recreational space just right, the results can be beautiful as well as eco-friendly, easy to maintain, economical and crowd-pleasing. With more products and creative designs available than ever before, the trick these days is to know how to choose what, and where it should go.

Beauty & the Best

"Your image is everything. A consistent look is important; it sends a message. We've all seen parks that are a hodgepodge and that's old school," said Scott MacLean, CPRP, CPSI, manager of park maintenance in the Waukegan Park District of Waukegan, Ill. "I look at site furnishings as the bling of the park that really projects your image. Site furnishings have changed. It's not just your mother's picnic table back in the day or just trash receptacles and grills, but it's planters, fences, lighting and more."

Regardless of the different site furnishings you select, having a consistent style, color palette and similar materials throughout a community's public gathering and recreation spaces creates an identity and makes a good impression to attract more people to your sites. Consistency also takes a lot of the guesswork out of future purchasing decisions, helps keep equity between neighborhoods, and makes the whole process easier and less time-consuming.

MacLean recommends that park districts create a manual to dictate what kind of site furnishings they're going to purchase and what the look is going to be. He also points to other resources such as one he has used, a site furnishings standards manual put together by the planners office at the University of Michigan. It spells out what type of site furnishings they get and why.

"In Round Rock, Texas, we have park standards so we can be equitable across the board to ensure one park doesn't have better stuff than another," said Aileen Dryden, associate ASLA with the City of Round Rock Parks and Recreation about another compelling reason to keep furnishings consistent. "And on our end, it allows more expedient purchasing when we know what we usually purchase."

Whether creating a park standards manual, using a standard manual from another source or relying on other practices like regularly employing the same designer or company for certain purchases, or keeping to a consistent color scheme, there are several ways to get a cohesive look and project an image while reducing the effort.

All recreational space should not be treated equally, however. While most neighborhood parks or recreation areas should be outfitted with everyday accessories, there are times and places where site furnishings and amenities require something more special. City plazas, for example, or a highly visible park in a community, are perfect to showcase more customized site furnishings.

"Our urban areas are a little more upgraded," Dryden said of the main street and two plazas in Round Rock. "Our trash cans and benches are wrought iron with custom medallions saying 'City of Round Rock.' We also offer more seating choices like moveable tables and chairs that are really nice, and seat walls and water features."

Special LED lighting in the plaza washes surrounding walls with different colors depending on the occasion (e.g., pink and purple for breast cancer awareness month, or red and green for Christmas), and an audio system makes special events that much more special. "We are really happy with what we have. It's a different feel with all the lights and seating areas," Dryden said. "People want to stay there longer."

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