The Aftermath Of Park Projects

In the not-so-distant-past, a park project took a familiar path to become a reality. Leadership gathered to build a consensus on project priorities for the coming year. After careful consideration, Park X—the aging flagship park—was selected. The budget was set, based on the last neighborhood park completed, and the green light was given to proceed.

Once the director initiated the project and provided background and program definition to the design team, other leaders were included as needed. Community input was sought to refine the conceptual plans, and the desire for a large splash pad, shelter, or play environment, and the maintenance of the park’s prominence emerged as goals.

Technical drawings were prepared, but the costs were usually higher than anticipated. To help stay within the budget, several items were

Have the installers take time to train staff on the proper use of new equipment and systems before the project is finished.  Photo Courtesy Of Hitchcock Design Group

Have the installers take time to train staff on the proper use of new equipment and systems before the project is finished.

Photo Courtesy Of Hitchcock Design Group

reduced or eliminated. Challenges regarding permits occurred, requiring native plantings to be added around a detention area and best management practices (BMPs) to be incorporated into the plan for stormwater runoff. The team was excited about the opportunity to “go green” and embraced this aspect of the design. Bids opened without issue, and the project was awarded to the lowest responsible bidder.

Construction began and continued with only minor issues. Substitutions and imperfect workmanship were accepted along the way in the name of cost and time savings. Overall, the project was a success, and the ribbon cutting brought excitement to all.

Park X was wildly celebrated, and people flocked to the new features, which included a splash pad, shelter and concession building, a custom play environment, uniquely shaped planters with steel accents in a grand plaza, and significant landscaping. The project received positive local press and even a few awards.

And then the designers left.

The Fallout Begins

Time often begins to take its toll on a project as wear paths emerge in the landscape, causing erosion issues. The specialty clamps on the custom playground are wearing, and portions of the park must be closed for repairs. Safety surfacing deteriorates in high-traffic areas, and continuous raking and replenishment lead to regret about some of the engineering decisions that were made.

The splash pad is hit by an electrical storm, causing four weeks of downtime while new parts are shipped. Once activated, unexpected costs of the water and sanitary sewer bill and the weekly upkeep of the mechanical and electrical systems force summer programming to end sooner than planned.

The shelter and concession building work great, but the softball association would like to store its equipment inside for the season. With no space planned, a temporary storage container is rented and staged on-site, resulting in yet another unforeseen expense as well as an eyesore. Vandalism becomes a problem with a few broken light bulbs, some spray paint, and skaters grinding on the planter walls.

As the summer progresses, the new landscaping looks thirsty, making the decision to irrigate with quick coupler valves and hoses a labor-intensive one. Patches of annuals and high-impact botanical displays require continuous personnel investment to keep the park looking attractive. The native plants and BMPs required by the permitting process look like unsightly weeds, confirmed by weekly calls from concerned residents. Although a 3-year growth cycle was outlined as the typical timeframe before the area looked presentable, this is not quite what was expected.

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