Supplement Feature - April 2010
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Seven Guidelines to Creative Park Design

By Daniel P. Smith

any residents carry a gross misconception regarding parkland development, too often believing that the city grabs a slice of land, tosses up a playground and benches, paves a parking lot, and leaves the scene to repeat the process at a later time and place.

Not quite.

Experienced park designers and civic personnel know that proper parkland development takes time and research, as much a result of analytical study as the reality of public funding. To create a park that meets community needs and expectations, designers focus on a series of best practices and proven strategies to draft a comprehensive plan, minimize hiccups, and cross the finish line with a park suitable for the present as well as the future.

With creative energy high and, oftentimes, ambitions even higher, it can be easy to veer off the proven path, particularly given the size and scope of many projects.

This is why we present two goals for parkland development: first, to remind designers of the tremendous duty they have been entrusted with and the fundamental principles they are trained to activate during every project; and second, to provide parks department leaders and civic hierarchy a sense of the expectations they should hold for a professional partner.

When planning a park or open space, veteran designers identify seven essential guidelines, each of which plays a role in producing a park capable of serving the community and enhancing the residents' quality of life.