The Aftermath Of Park Projects

The design team and product vendors respond to questions and requests for help in a timely manner, but distance and lack of contract obligations eventually result in more issues than solutions. The daily struggle to operate and maintain the park escalates due to the cracking concrete (that should have been rejected); in the board room, the pressure mounts to find the best way to alleviate these issues.

For designers, this is their worst nightmare. The design was solid and well-received, but post-installation adjustments, maintenance challenges, and vandalism have affected the overall aesthetic and safety of the project. In addition, vendor support, permitting, and technical requirements needed by the premier system have damaged the relationship between the park agency and designer, and weakened the park board’s trust in the designers’ ability. These issues are almost entirely avoidable with only a few adjustments. 

Open Communications

The right team was assembled, but some critical players were omitted. Including a mechanic or electrician in the initial stages of planning may have alleviated the challenges with the spray park. Contacting organizations that have approved programs in the park to discuss their needs could have addressed the storage issues. Involving the police at some point during planning might have

Avoid problems after the ribbon-cutting through open communication.  Photo Courtesy Of Hitchcock Design Group

Avoid problems after the ribbon-cutting through open communication.

Photo Courtesy Of Hitchcock Design Group

resolved the security needs. Making sure to reach out to anyone who might affect the success of the project is an important step. Just because staff members are busy, don’t miss the opportunity to have them sit in on meetings when appropriate, as they may have valuable insights about the future operations of the project. Make sure to ask questions and require explanations from the design team in the presence of staff members. Things that are commonplace in the design world may be new to department members, and current practices could be positively impacted with simple, inexpensive tweaks.

Budget Accordingly

Unless you undertake annual, multiple park projects that are the same size as the one proposed, don’t plan the budget without some help. Effective design firms and contractors monitor ever-changing market conditions. A host of conditions affect price, so even if the project is just an idea, provide one of the preferred designers with as much information as possible, and ask for help in creating a budget. Keep value engineering decisions and bidding alternates to a minimum, as these tend to water down project goals at a time when it is difficult to recover. Be mindful of the budget throughout the project, and trust the team to provide accurate pricing information. Set aside board-approved design, bidding, and construction contingencies that prohibit the team from reacting to unforeseen issues with the project’s best interests in mind. Be leery of cutting systems that may not be visible to the public but are important to the long-term success of the project.

Minimize Experiments

Native grasses and BMPs are great and are often primary goals for projects, but submit details of exactly what they will look like, how to care for them, and how they will perform. Visit other sites, and have the design team supply pictures, data, and client stories for clarification. Educate staff members and the public about the goals so they can celebrate the project’s success. This goes for other materials and systems as well. If it’s going to be an experiment, truly make it an experiment—track it, monitor it, write about it for the benefit of others, and don’t forget to obtain a grant to help pay for it.

Promote Training

Have the installers take time to train staff on the proper use of new equipment and systems before the project is finished. Ideally, the staff that will be responsible for the maintenance of the park will be exposed to some of the items during the design process, and this training will be more of a confirmation. Make sure to obtain manuals, as-built documents, and recommendations for upkeep on all installed materials.

Time-Tested Technology

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