Supplement Feature - April 2008
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Trends in Park Landscaping

By Sue Marquette Poremba


Another trend that Smith is seeing in her parks is the involvement of the community. "We're trying to get the community to take ownership of their various parks," she said. Whenever there is a renovation planned, the parks management holds meetings with the neighborhoods. "As a result, we find the parks are better taken care of," Smith explained.

A few years ago, Farmers Branch put in a new playground in an apartment complex area where a previous playground had not succeeded. "We had an after-school club involved. We went to the kids and the parents, which represented a great cross-section of this apartment," Smith explained. "The kids actually drew up their ideal playground. We adapted their ideas into this playground. We definitely did what we could to include them." And it has paid off. The playground is much better used than it was in the past, and the local residents have more respect for the park area.

With the Earth-Kind trial rose garden, citizens are encouraged to adopt a rose bed. "We find as funds get tighter, we're looking for additional resources," Smith said. "And some of this help comes from people coming in and adopting a park."

People who adopt a rose bed will be responsible for weeding. People or groups who adopt a park become a second set of eyes for the park management.

"If we have more people looking at the park more often, we make sure we don't have hazards and it helps us be more efficient with our labor," Smith said.

When it comes to overall park design, Smith believes that landscapers and community members have become more selective in plant selection. "We want to see different kinds of trees and plant combinations," she said. "Through our parks, we can transport you anywhere. You can be in Dallas and we can make you feel like you are in the tropics or we can make you feel like you are in the arid southwest."

Copper Robbers

As economies tighten, many parks are finding an unexpected and unwanted trend in maintenance costs.

"Copper theft is crushing us," said Dominick Casey, superintendent of parks in Henderson, Nev. "This year alone, we've spent over $200,000 in copper theft replacement."

Lighting for security, for athletic fields, for dog parks or for skateparks requires specialty lighting that uses copper wire. Copper earns quick and easy cash from scrap-metal dealers.

"When we lose copper, we lose security and usability of the park at night," Casey explained. Henderson has had to temporarily close five sports facilities this year until they replaced the copper wiring. "That doesn't take into account the loss of revenue, as well," he added.