Supplement Feature - April 2011
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Mix and Match

When Outfitting Your Park, Context Matters

By Emily Tipping

On the Trail

Many patrons likely take for granted the care that is given to designing trails for their use. Whether it's the surface beneath their feet or the regular placement of benches where they can rest those feet, park planners have more to consider than just the view when properly planning a trail.

Benches placed at regular intervals along the trail may help encourage use, by allowing walkers who are older or less fit to rest when the going gets tough. When looking for the right spot to place a bench, try to find a beautiful vista or a spot where those who are sitting can continue to watch the action.

At the trailhead, you might want to include a kiosk with a message board to provide information about trail etiquette and seasonal issues. The trailhead is also a good spot for a restroom structure, garbage cans and maybe even a hitching post if your trail allows horseback riders.

If visitors of the canine variety are regulars on your trail system, you may also want to consider installing doggy-bag dispensers. This encourages owners to clean up after their pets, and reduces unsightly dog-leavings alongside the trail.

Stop Vandals in Their Tracks

Vandalism and graffiti can be a major—and costly—problem. What's more, when these problems are not taken care of quickly, they can get worse. Graffiti that remains in place for more than 48 hours tells patrons and vandals that no one cares. This can lead to fewer patrons, and even more vandals.

There are steps you can take to prevent problems:

  • Community Involvement: If you encourage an active community of park users, they will be your eyes, preventing many problems before they occur and reporting them in a timely manner when they do happen.
  • Surface Selection: According to the Project for Public Spaces (PPS), blank, smooth surfaces are attractive to graffitists. Lighter colors and highly visible surfaces also present a problem.
  • The Right Materials: Protective coatings—especially on wood surfaces—can make it easier to remove graffiti. Wood can easily be damaged, so you might want to consider recycled plastic lumber, which is more resilient.
  • Create an Obstacle: Walls are a tempting canvas. Make them harder to get to by placing dense plantings nearby.
  • Light the Night: Particularly in problem areas, lights can deter vandals. On top of this, good lighting will ensure that professionals in charge of security have a good view of the space.
  • Fake-Out: Try placing dummy cameras and motion detectors in highly visible areas. Only you will know that they're not real.
  • Have a Presence: If you don't have the staff to ensure a regular security sweep of the park, ask the local police to make occasional visits. Varying the times at which your staff shows up will keep vandals guessing whether they'll get caught in the act or not.
  • Get There First: Some areas are too tempting for graffitists to resist. In this case, you can get there first by painting a multicolored mural on a large surface such as a restroom wall.