Guest Column - April 2010
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Parks & Playgrounds

Extreme Makeover, Park Edition

By Rebecca Beach

Other natural features can include rock outcrops and boulders, which can become natural climbing features if attenuating surfacing is added to prevent fall injuries.

Shade trees planted in picnic areas not only provide necessary sun protection but also attract birds, beneficial insects and butterflies. Additional shade shelters with picnic tables, benches and grills are important parts of a day at the park.

A landscape architect can also provide a planting plan for trees, bushes, flowers and even edible plants that will provide rich sensory experiences. Allowing space for an organic community garden can bring people together in a productive way.

Outdoor places equipped with accessible paths that wind throughout create a network of dynamic interactive communal spaces for walkers, joggers, infants in strollers, bicyclists, children on tricycles and people in wheelchairs. Outdoor places are full of rich sensory experiences. Universally designed trails, bike and walking paths that have a natural feature as a destination make the experience worth the effort.

At this point the landscape architect can begin a master plan to incorporate all the natural features identified in the site survey. As the plan begins to develop, it will become clear what additional site amenities are needed to enhance and build the natural infrastructure. A budget should be developed at this time to determine available resources and identify potential fundraising projects. Volunteer labor should not be overlooked and gives the community the opportunity to be a vital part of the development.

From the beginning it is important to make decisions that will make your park makeover project environmentally responsible. Recycling and even composting should be a part of every new building project. Using recycled materials keeps tons of plastic out of the landfills. Paths, bridges and shelters can all be built from recycled plastic lumber or purchased from sustainable manufacturers. In addition, products such as benches, picnic tables, recycling containers, raised garden beds, playground and fitness equipment are all available from reliable manufacturers who will often help with site plans at no additional expense.

Check out the potential in your area for using solar or wind power to produce some of your own energy. Recycling graywater, use of water-efficient commodes, green roofs on buildings, and eliminating or reducing car traffic in the park in favor of pedestrian and bike paths will significantly reduce carbon emissions.