Supplement Feature - April 2011
Find a printable version here

Design for the Times

Stretch Your Dollars, Boost Your Impact

By Rick Dandes

The Social Generation

People go to parks to relieve stress and get away from it all. But younger generations will definitely bring their phones along. That phone informs them, protects them and connects them. Can you imagine what Facebook, Twitter and other social sites can bring to inform people of a great recreational and health opportunity a park provides? This is an opportunity that has not been fully utilized, said several park planners.

"It's something I'm sure that the next generation of park designers will understand and provide for users," said Mike Bell, of RDG Design & Planning in Des Moines, Iowa.

It's All About the Money

Given the economic climate that park planners have had to endure over the past few years, "we're finding that any kind of design that maximizes efficiencies and flexibility is something that municipalities are looking for," Crawford said. "Because of funding constraints, parks and recreation departments are seeking partnerships with other public agencies, sometimes with private service providers; and they are looking for designs that give them the most flexibility so that they can program their facility to the fullest extent possible. Efficiency and flexibility is extremely important in the overall design of parks."

In Philadelphia, it has certainly been a struggle for the past couple of years, Focht said. "But we have done fairly well with the philanthropic community and we got a boost with stimulus money. Having said that, there is never enough money to do what you want to do, and we believe that you can't let money stand in the way of doing good things."

"We firmly believe that resources follow aspiration," Focht added. "Even when the economy gets tight, you don't pull in, you don't hunker down. If anything, you get more aggressive in your planning and you convince people that now is the time to get moving. The thing to say is, 'If you give us a grant, public or private, we can stretch your dollar farther now than we could have ever before.'"