Guest Column - February 2005
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From Village to City

The creation of a park system

By Deborah Edsall and John Edsall

You can learn a lot from Powell, Ohio. The community just 14 miles north of Ohio's capital city, Columbus, recently underwent an extensive park improvement program, involving nine simultaneous master plans. The advantage of this approach of developing multiple parks at once translated into at least $750,000 to $1 million in savings for the citizens of Powell.

Impressive. Such remarkable results can be credited directly to the park system project's comprehensive planning process and the inspiring teamwork involved.

A little background

Powell has experienced rapid growth this past decade. In 1990, the village population was just 2,154. By 2000, it grew to 6,247 and gained city status. In 1995, when the city council adopted the Comprehensive Plan Update, one of the plan's six major goals was "the establishment of an identity as a rural greenbelt town."

As the city grew in size and population, Powell's park system increased from 19 acres to 83.4 acres due to the commitment of open-space planning. The incremental increase in park land occurred in part through acquisition but mainly through land dedication as subdivision development occurred. For every dwelling unit a developer was required to pay either $1,550 per each dwelling unit or one acre of nonresidential land use to the Recreation Fund in lieu of land dedication.

As Powell grew, community needs assessment surveys were conducted in 1993, 1998 and 2003. Citizens consistently prioritized natural-area preservation, bike/walking/hiking/running paths and children's playgrounds as desirable. Based on the community needs assessment surveys, the leadership of the city had to determine how to best finance the desired park improvements. It was determined a bond issue was the best financing mechanism for Powell's park and recreation improvements.

A PAC (Political Action Committee) was created to manage the campaign for the Park Bond Issue. The PAC developed a promotional document and met with citizen groups at homes throughout the community. A theme for the bond issue was "Increase your living space by more than 3.5 million square feet." A $7 million bond issue was placed on the ballot and approved in May 2002. The dollar amount was determined to be the amount that would have the most acceptable financial impact on Powell's residents. The initial cost was $6.38 per $100,000 valuation per month. The cost decreases each year as the property valuation in the city increases.

In mid-2002, the city hired landscape architects to work with Powell's citizens on the creation of concept plans, construction cost estimates and phasing plans. As the concept plans were developed, public input sessions were conducted to carefully review the parameters of each park site along with construction budgets. Nine concept master plans were developed, integrated with the city bikeway system. As the concept plans were developed, standards were developed for the restroom buildings and summer houses (shelters) to establish Powell's park-system identity.

Putting the plan in place

With the acceptance of the concept plan, construction cost estimates and establishment of phase I development, landscape architects prepared construction documents and performed contract administration and construction observation. During construction document preparation, 12 disciplines were involved in the project that were coordinated by the landscape architect. The disciplines included an arborist, naturalist, agronomist, geotechnical engineer (subsurface investigation), environmental scientist (wetland delineation and mitigation), hydrological engineer (preparation/submittal of CLOMR to FEMA), surveyor, architect, civil engineer, electrical/mechanical engineer and skatepark consultant.

To maximize the citizen's dollars, separate bids were taken for tree demolition/relocation/trimming work, general contract work, planting operations, and furnishing and installing playground equipment. The city also negotiated a contract with the skatepark consultant to construct the skatepark based on drawings and specifications.