Supplement Feature - April 2009
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Site Solutions

Designing & Outfitting Your Park

By Sue Marquette Poremba

Drink Up

Despite the fact that more and more Americans can be found carrying the ubiquitous plastic water bottle everywhere they go, water fountains are absolutely essential in most parks and recreation facilities.

Near picnic areas, sports fields and playgrounds, a water fountain will get heavy use, so be sure you stay on top of maintenance with a regular schedule. This can involve relatively simple cleaning, but staff should also make sure everything is functioning properly.

If you're located in areas that see deep freezes in winter, you may shut your water fountains down during the winter months to prevent water lines from freezing and bursting. If you do this, you'll need to flush the lines out at the end of the season to make sure no water remains. Once spring's warmth necessitates the return of drinking water, you'll need to sanitize and clean the lines before turning the fountains back on.

Water fountains are available with freeze protection, allowing them to be kept running all winter long.

When purchasing drinking fountains, be sure to consider the needs of all your park patrons: parents, children, the disabled, pets and so on. A jug filler is handy near picnic areas, and near beaches and waterfronts, shower stations are welcome to wash off the sand.


Budget issues are always a challenge, according to Steven Cosmos, owner of Cosmos Associates in Natick, Mass. Planning a park site isn't cheap.

In Pittsburgh, fundraising efforts brought in $5 million to renovate Market Square.

Gary Scott in West Des Moines said that a lot of money is needed for general construction of a park, like the utilities, paving, buildings and restrooms. "A lot of money goes into the ground," he said.

In the past, Scott would have several parks under construction at once, adding on to each one a little at a time, taking several years to complete. This would allow more residents earlier access to a park without breaking the budget. Turns out, however, that the neighborhoods wanted their parks completed quickly, so the city now focuses on getting a single park done in one or two six-month building periods.

Cecil suggests establishing a steering committee for the planning process, which can be a watchdog on the budget, as well as other issues. "Don't make the committee so large that it can't make recommendations or discuss ideas among themselves. But don't make it so small that it appears to be exclusive or narrow-minded."

He also recommends that there be a clear decision-making process for the site, the site plan and the park design. "Parks can engender enthusiastic debate," Cecil continued, "and there always seems to be a contrary opinion. Consensus is not the same as unanimity, and it is important to bring appropriate closure at each step of the planning and design process."