Feature Article - April 2006
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Special Supplement: A Complete Guide to Site Furnishings & Park Components

Planning the right park components

By Stacy St. Clair


In many cases, master plans or development standards facilitate the site furnishing selection process. They ensure that all purchased materials meet certain expectations and maintain a uniform appearance throughout the community.

Many parks departments prefer bulk purchases, which can make finding replacement parts easy and reduces manpower. It also makes sure that everything purchased follows certain codes (like the Americans with Disability Act) and can withstand the local elements.

This will give you a cohesive look, but don't let it be your only option. It may eliminate the hodgepodge appearance of some communities, but it also may give your park a boring, tedious look.

When deciding your budget, however, remember that even similar-size parks will have differing budgets based on themes, historical demands and the venue's goals. If you are challenged by such places, it would be beneficial to use a landscape architect or a civic organization like People for Public Spaces. They both can provide expert advice—particularly in places with programming challenges—to create highly functional parks.

Before you can begin the planning process, however, you must decide how the park will be used. Your decision will give you the best information on how to proceed.

"It's one of the biggest mistakes parks make," Madden says. "They don't ask themselves how the space will be used or what is needed to accommodate those uses."

Trash Talk

A few things to keep in mind when choosing and installing garbage receptacles and recycling bins:

  • Before purchasing, consider how easy it will be for maintenance crews to empty the container.
  • Be sure to purchase enough cans so litter doesn't become a problem.
  • If your park has a vandalism problem, stay away from plastic containers that easily melt when set on fire.
  • Place latched or animal-proof receptacles in wilderness areas.
  • Consider fines for campers who leave trash at their sites.