Feature Article - March 2015
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Waterfront Access

Clever Planning, Activities Help Draw Visitors

By Deborah L. Vence


The Do's and Dont's

When planning for a waterfront development, experts also suggested keeping in mind a few do's and don'ts.

For the do's, Diserio said to:

  • Couple waterfront space with land activities when possible.
  • Study the body of water the space is in, so you know what water factors you will have to deal with.
  • First, make sure permitting will be possible in the area you are looking to develop.
  • Benchmark other facilities that you know have success, and implement that into your space.
  • Safety should always be a high priority when developing any waterfront access.

Jordan said, do:

  • Provide users with multiple ways to experience the water, whether that is through unique seating, terraced overlooks, intimate gardens or open plazas.
  • Accommodate multiple forms of transportation (peds, bikes, pedicabs, etc.).
  • Design for the long term with durable materials that hold up to heavy use and the marine environment.
  • Capitalize on the features that make a specific waterfront unique.

Romens added that you should also spend time on the front end of the planning process.

As for the don'ts, Diserio said:

  • Don't assume all waterfront access can be universal. Some applications call for special needs, such as waters that fluctuate greatly, or salt water.
  • Don't start any building process until permitting has been completed.
  • Don't put waterfront access in a limited/remote area when possible.

Jordan added: "The primary don't that is inherent in how we develop our designs for waterfronts is to avoid the temptation to try to make your design the feature attraction. Regardless of how beautiful or interesting one's design is, the overall scale and beauty inherent in most waterfronts will overpower the landscape."

New Developments

Washington County Parks in Washington, Pa., has developed a waterfront access that serves fishermen, recreational boaters and kayakers, by offering a floating dock system that can suit the different needs of the people using the dock.

"Kayakers prefer a lower dock height, while boaters normally prefer a higher dock height," Diserio said. "Washington County Parks installed a dock system to cater to the different types of boats being used on the water. Along with being able to suit many types of powerboats, and non-powered boats, the dock is also in an area with a playground, camping area, party shelters and restrooms. The combination of all the amenities offered at the location increases the use of the waterfront access."

He added that the location still is being completed, but the location of the facility allows visitors from the other side of the lake access to the water and amenities.

"The new facility and location should prove successful in allowing more people the ability to access the lake," he said.

In another example, Romens said his company is working on completing a waterfront development in Indiana at YMCA Camp Crosley on a public lake. Originally, the camp wanted an aquatic facility, but it was decided that a three-acre lake and large pond would be better for the area.

The waterfront area at the YMCA camp will include a beach area, camping area, wake board course, water recreation features and walking path. Also, the area will have a welcome center, observation zone and parking; land recreation zone; pedal track; and trees/landscaping.

The recreation pond has been reshaped and modified to accommodate a variety of recreational activities, including a shallow water recreation zone that has been included at the north beach. The shallow zone will include inflatable features that are designed specifically for shallow depths. The area will be ideal for campers new to swimming and for water sports, such as water volleyball, and will also feature a floating climbing wall and a floating dock.

"It was dug out and programmed … and the whole area [was designed] much with the same methodology of a waterpark, with both deep water zones and shallow water zones for activities. The whole area is six acres with a three-acre body of water. That whole area becomes the center of attraction for that camp. They will still use the lake with activities. There is a zero-entry beach that will be at a new pond area," Romens said.

The development is scheduled to open in the spring.

"It gives it that back to the old swimming hole, back to nature, sustainable recreation … that ecosystem and back to nature feel," Romens added.