Supplement Feature - April 2011
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Design for the Times

Stretch Your Dollars, Boost Your Impact

By Rick Dandes

Going Green

The going-green trend and the sustainability of landscapes—in both construction and maintenance—is very prevalent these days in the world of designing parks, said Mark Focht, executive director of the Fairmount Park Commission in Philadelphia.

"Looking at parks to make sure they are sustainable has been a trend for the last several years, but it's only getting stronger," Focht said. "At Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, we are in the process of expanding our park system. We are going to be breaking ground on an entirely new park just south of Philadelphia's downtown—Center City. We've been working on the design for more than two years, and the whole time much of the discussion has been about sustainability, the appropriateness of materials, how locally sourced materials can be used."

In a way, park districts are environmentally friendly by nature, added Inman. "Park districts, being in the natural environmental business, are already green," he said.

Inman noted such "green" trends in parks as the establishment of rain gardens and infiltration basins. "It's all done in an attempt to reduce the cost of maintaining otherwise unprogrammable turf areas," he said.

There is certainly a lot of discussion about permeable paving, dark sky lighting and just an overall native plant palette. And, of course, using recycled materials whenever possible.

Many parks now work to include stormwater management and retention. Larger parks and even smaller neighborhood parks are being designed to capture and then reuse storm water that falls in the parks. The goal is to not direct it to a piping system into a river or a treatment plant.

"Another green practice is to use solar lighting," Focht said. "We have many parks in our system that use solar lights. We're considering the use of wind-powered light fixtures as well. We have a park that is completely removed from the grid. We produce all of our own power in the park by using photovoltaic cells. It's efficient. It saves money. And to our environmentally conscious park-goers, it just makes good sense."