Feature Article - March 2017
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By the Shore

Waterfronts Provide Economic Strength, Charm

By Deborah L. Vence

In another example, RDG Planning is involved in transforming Crystal Prairie Lake Park in Wichita, Kan.

Waterfronts offer communities economic stability, character and environmental benefits, making them effective recreational amenities.

"[Crystal Lake Prairie Park] is unique, as it seeks to set forth design and construction criteria for how the site will be transformed from mining operations to a public amenity," Crawford said. "Through the engagement of both the public and private sectors, wide consensus has developed that Crystal Prairie Lake Park should be a 420-acre model for sustainability."

In addition, both active and passive uses of the site are offered a broad mix of programs, enabling Crystal Prairie Lake Park to generate revenues to cover a significant portion of its operating expenses through water-based activities and programs.

Meanwhile, Romens suggested that the most effective recreational amenities need to offer something for all age groups and abilities.

"The area needs to have multi-generational, multi-ability appeal," Romens said. "By designing a combination of recreation areas or zones for both active and passive recreation, shallow and deep water activities, and land and water-based activities, this is effectively achieved."

For those looking for an active recreation experience, you can add water inflatable obstacle courses that offer varying levels of challenge. "These can be designed for shallow or deep water, and watching people slip, slide and climb through one of these is as much fun for the spectator as it is for the participant," Romens said. "Stand-up paddleboards … kayaks and pedal boats are also popular. Offering a variety of activities not only helps disperse demand for any one activity, it encourages repeat visits to the location."

For passive recreation, walking paths, lookout points, docks and seating located in strategic places are key.

"Shades and benches and tables for seating create a space in which passive recreators can comfortably gather and observe while they take a break from the action," Romens said. "Including spaces such as large sand areas and shallow water activities also provides space for passive recreation and adds to the multi-generational appeal."

At Park Lake in Santa Rosa, N.M., the city was looking for ways to bring tourists to the area by using existing civic assets. One of the city's largest assets was Park Lake, a largely unused public lake. The city partnered with Romens' company to create an on-water obstacle course that generated excitement and regular visits from city residents and tourists.

In this case, the city charged a daily fee to use the obstacle course, which has proven to be a revenue generator.

In other waterfront examples, California Parks Company identified the lakefronts at Lake Gregory and Lake Perris as underutilized assets. So, to better use the lake and attract more visitors, Romens' company and its team of specialists was asked to help. The partnership rejuvenated interest in the parks and created new aquatic destinations.

Both of the locations are part of California State Parks, which had seen dwindling attendance in recent years.

"They wanted to reposition the lakefronts as aquatic destinations and rejuvenate public interest to better use these beautiful assets to their full potential," said Shannon Brower, who works as a marketing specialist for the same Verona, Wis.-based company as Romens.

"At both locations we completed a needs analysis to determine the right products to meet their goals and specific budgets. Once the analysis was complete, we created on-water obstacle courses or sports parks that generated excitement and increased overall attendance and beach usage," she said.

"With both of these locations, we really helped guide them through the entire planning stages of the waterfront development. We provided site renderings with specific recreation zones to account for the variety of demographics that attend each site," she said.

Brower and Romens' company incorporated multiple play features to create unique play events to foster a rotational flow-through from one even to the next to allow for high-volume usage without congestion.

"We accounted for a variety of swimming abilities through the incorporation of both shallow and deep zones," she said.

In addition, the company also worked with them to considerably boost revenue. Through the introduction of a special use fee, each location was able to generate significant revenue.