Feature Article - April 2005
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Special Pullout Supplement:
A Complete Guide to Site Furnishings & Park Components

Turning a park from bare to beautiful—and making it functional

By Kelli Anderson

Selecting picture-perfect site furnishings and park components seems easy enough—a drinking fountain here, a bench over there—but the reality is that smart choices take time to research and good application entails careful planning and site design.

In our culture of quick fixes, thorough research and planning, however, don't have to be so difficult. By asking some key questions about facility and patron needs, coupled with some site furnishings dos and don'ts, outdoor spaces can maximize their function and maybe even save some money in the process.

Let's start at the beginning.


If a community really wants to do it up right, following a long-range vision like a master plan or developing park standards can help make the specific decisions about most site furnishings a breeze. For municipalities, for example, which may oversee many kinds of recreational space, having a master plan or park standards can help ensure that purchases remain uniform and styles stay consistent, while possibly saving money and maintenance headaches.

From a practical standpoint, bulk purchases make accountants (and manufacturers) very happy, replacement parts are easy to replace, and maintenance staff don't have to deal with 20 different kinds of benches and their individual quirks when it comes to upkeep.

But uniformity isn't just about a product, it also can be about qualifications or standards. For example, a master plan can dictate that all purchases (or a certain percentage) must follow ADA guidelines or be of a certain durability or fit an established style.

Standards or guidelines can help to limit choices to the most acceptable few.

"In Seattle, we have park standards," says Kevin Stoops, manager for major projects and planning for the city of Seattle. "We have standard portable tables, fixed tables, etc., but we have deviated to use more rustic tables and refined ones, too. We try to limit choices and settle on standards for easier maintenance and ease of replacement."

With such standards in place, a community develops a cohesive look—a subtle sense that it isn't thrown together in a hodgepodge fashion but rather that it reflects a well-thought-out purpose for its function and style. It reflects, in its own quiet way, what the community values and a sense of its character.