Guest Column - July 2012
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Design Corner

Restored Ecology as Park Design Inspiration

By Scott Crawford, PLA, ASLA, LEED AP

The outdoor ice rink will be located on the northeast corner of the existing Valley View Aquatic parking lot. This is a highly desirable location for a facility of this type as it maximizes visibility and presence from 81st Street, creates an architectural statement at the east entrance of the park, and is able to capitalize on shared parking with the Valley View Aquatic Center lot that already exists and is currently underutilized during the winter season.

The area east of the great lawn will provide users with a lower intensity level of activity as the park transitions from highly maintained turf grass to restored native prairie and oak savannah habitat at the center core. This area will have a stream plank walk that crisscrosses the rock step channel through the oak savannah habitat, creating a dynamic interaction with water for users. The moderate intensity trail that connects the north and south portions of the park meanders through the oak savannah. A low intensity trail follows the ridgeline of the ellipse-shaped earth berm on the west side of the oak savannah and an elevated boardwalk continues the ellipse-shaped trail to traverse the wetland area and braided stream.

The natural play area, located directly north of the oak savannah and wetland boardwalk will have an interactive splashpad for children and adults to experience the water cycle story and emphasize the importance of water quality through a variety of user-controlled aquatic elements.

The largest structure at the park will be the community building. Anticipated to be large enough to accommodate groups of approximately 250 individuals indoors in a banquet or reception-style setting with a full-service kitchen, the community building and adjacent outdoor pavilion will be located on the east portion of the park, overlooking the large stormwater pond from the north. Located at the west end of the celebration pavilion will be an outdoor theatre with terraced seating and a stage for performances and programs.

With a diverse range of recreational and interpretive experiences for West Des Moines citizens and visitors to the community, Valley View Park will offer a meaningful physical, emotional and spiritual retreat for generations of users. Knitted into the growing western edge of the city, the adjacent context of low, medium and high density residential development, and multiple trail connections to regional systems, access and location of Valley View Park are critical to the success of this master plan and future use of the park by neighboring residents as well as regional trail users.

The first phase of Valley View Park is currently under construction with anticipated completion in the summer of 2012, making the west half of the park available to users in early 2013.

Scott Crawford, PLA, ASLA, LEED AP is a partner, landscape architect and director of the Parks and Recreation Design Studio with RDG Planning & Design. He has consulted with a diverse range of public and private parks and recreation entities to create unique experiences that appropriately manage environmental systems, promote healthy communities, improve quality of life and respond to financial realities. For more information, visit