Guest Column - January 2005
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Sustainable Parks

Park Planning and Design

By Andrew R. Lavallee, ASLA, RLA, CSI

IMP methodology for maintenance planning

The approach to IMP for Brooklyn Bridge Park consisted of three parts: physical analysis of the proposed plan in terms of required maintenance operations, comparative analysis of the proposed park maintenance plan with other parks within the same geographic region to validate proposed operations, and, finally, establishment of the various standards of maintenance and operations proposed for the park.

To this end, the concept plan was broken down into a variety of area types or facility categories that would require similar maintenance activities or "cost centers." Some of the major categories included hardscape areas, water or shoreline areas, passive lawn and landscaped areas, active lawn recreation areas, the pool facility, and overall park utility expenses such as lighting, water and heat.

In addition, the estimated useful life of the proposed facility elements was calculated against a projected 50-year life cycle, as mandated by the owner/agency. Some typical capital maintenance costs included replacement of damaged site furnishings, resurfacing of athletic pavements, and replacement of trees and shrubs. Since nearly 28 percent of the Brooklyn Bridge Park plan consisted of piers and upland supported bulkhead structures, anticipated repair of the piers was carefully evaluated. Another significant cost was the cyclical replacement of park maintenance vehicles.

What was more difficult to establish were the "intangibles" of park operations: the level of maintenance that will be acceptable to the public over the long term, the level of security that needs to be provided, and the extent of park programs and administrative oversight that needs to be provided. Estimated costs for these items were developed from applying comparable cost structures from a variety of New York City parks to the proposed concept plan for Brooklyn Bridge Park on a square-foot basis. Interviews were then conducted with comparison park administrations to understand how they approached operations of their parks. In this way, the capital maintenance budgeting, programming and administration costs for Brooklyn Bridge Park could be better understood in the context of what other parks are doing in the city.

The proposed levels of maintenance and staffing for the proposed park were then reviewed over a number of months in meetings with the park staff to develop a consensus about their vision for the upkeep of the park. Issues that were discussed included levels of security, community and educational programming as well as frequency of maintenance operations such as snow removal, lawn mowing or tree pruning. Levels of maintenance also were studied on a seasonal basis to ensure adequate staffing was available when park attendance was expected to surge during the warmer months. In addition, levels of capital maintenance expenditures were reviewed to ensure that the park infrastructure and furnishings were kept at acceptable levels.