Supplement Feature - April 2018
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Creature Comforts

Select the Right Furnishings for Your Site

By Deborah L. Vence

Whether it's a picnic table, a park bench or a trash receptacle, site furnishings can enhance and add appeal to any park site.

The key, however, is in knowing how to select the right type of product, material and color to ensure good design and comfort. How you design your space and the furnishings you choose should be in line with how the area will be used.

"The best design is one that will be used where people gather regularly," said Philip Clemons, sales manager for a Chattanooga, Tenn.-based company that manufactures commercial recreation products, including site furnishings, picnic tables, park benches and grills.

"It can be an extension of a school cafeteria or under a picnic shelter at the local park. When project planning, it is important to keep in mind how the patrons will be using the area, and walk through several scenarios," he said.

Types of Spaces

When deciding on how to use site furnishings in the context of your spaces, you have to consider a few things.

"Will there be a lot of bike riders? If so, make sure you have adequate bike parking," Clemons said. "Next to the bike parking, it would be great to have a bench, in case someone needs to change their shoes, or take a break after a long ride. While they are sitting on the bench, they may need a snack. To help keep your park clean, you will want to make sure they have a trash receptacle nearby."

"We see it all—from large concert venues to the simplest of park renovations, no matter how big or how small of a project, make sure you speak with an expert to help you plan," he added.

Meanwhile, Sandra Anson, director of sales and marketing for a company in Mulliken, Mich., that manufactures park benches, picnic tables and site furnishings, said that while she is not a designer, she suggests to her clients to always follow ADA guidelines.

Also, "The decisions start with how the area will be used, so choose products that are appropriate for that purpose. Natural settings lend themselves to more contemplative opportunities, to sit quietly and ponder the beauty that is nature," she said.

"A bench here, a picnic table there, provides some privacy and convenience to help patrons enjoy the area. Conversation areas with face-to-face seating are great in a park as meeting areas that bring a sense of community, as is appropriately spaced benches accessible from both sides as a rest stop or to subtly direct the flow of pedestrian traffic.

"Products composed of 100 percent recycled plastic are the most efficient, as they are available in designs from utility to elegant and have the greatest durability, sustainability and life span for continuous use in all climates," she said.

And, "Being non-porous and non-leaching also make them perfect for aquatic use, marinas, natural settings and food service. Safety and versatility are priorities for facility managers, who are trying to do more with the ever-stretching budget," Anson said, adding that her company helps them reduce expenditures formerly spent on labor to maintain furnishings and replacements.

What's more, Adam Steen, director of business development for a Northwood, Iowa-based manufacturer of plastic-coated outdoor furniture, noted that his company relies on its "dedicated partners to design the ideal space when they utilize our furnishings.

"Often, we are involved to custom create logos, colors and design to help create the experience our partners are looking for," he said. "Our site furnishings are created in collaboration with our partners and always with quality and customer experience in the forefront of our minds."