Providing shade can do more than bring relief to park visitors on a steamy summer afternoon — it can bring in revenue. If done correctly, permanent shade structures — such as pavilions and gazebos — can draw a crowd for family reunions, weddings and out-of-the-office meeting locations.
Prevent Poor Performance
Even though a pavilion typically is a concrete-floored structure with a roof and no walls, that doesn’t mean you can just slap one up anywhere and people will be clamoring to use it. Take the time to plan for not only the site location and surroundings, but also the look and feel of the pavilion.
The design principles for a pavilion are fairly basic, but there are myriad variables that determine what functions will be held in it. For example, no bride worth her salt is going to opt for a reception in a bland-looking pavilion. The pavilion — as well as the surroundings — must have a touch of elegance. Whether the structure is wood or steel, select a design with graceful arches instead of utilitarian straight and rigid lines.
Earth tones for the roof and support beams will warm up the look and feel of the open-air structure as well.
The floor of the structure may be plain-Jane smooth or brushed concrete, but why not select something more interesting, such as stamped concrete? For a fraction of the price and much less maintenance, you can have the look of stone, flagstone, English stone, cobblestone, slate or brick. Not only does the stamping give the concrete the look of stone, slate or brick, but it provides texture as well.
Or select a brick pattern, such as a rattan weave, running bond or herringbone.
Concrete pigments — including brown, red, gray, tan, green and blue — also can be added for a touch of class. Combined, the colors can give a variety of finishes, including red brick, gray slate, blue flagstone, or even travertine marble.
A word of caution — this job may require hiring a professional since concrete is unforgiving, coloring is an art, and a fair amount of equipment is utilized in each process.
For a comparison, consider that stamped concrete costs $8 to $20 per square foot, and a precast brick floor costs $4 to $20 per square foot, while a stone floor begins at $25 per square foot. Installation is somewhat faster than laying natural stone or pavers. Stamped concrete needs to be sealed every other year to protect it against stains, and to maintain the color finish. But there’s no need to worry about weeds during the summer or stones heaving up during the winter.
Warm And Toasty
To bring in the coziness and grandeur of a lodge while also providing heat and a place to roast a few marshmallows, put a fireplace at one end of the pavilion.
The Ingram-White Castle Pavilion at Recreation Unlimited in Ashley, Ohio, includes a stone hearth with three open-gate fronts and a storage area for wood.
“The stone work and fireplace create the look and feel of being in the rugged outdoors,” says David Hudler, business development manager for Recreation Unlimited, a year-round camp for individuals with disabilities and health concerns. “The fireplace increases the pavilion’s year-round usability for groups, especially during semi-inclement weather.”
Although a pavilion must be accessible to everyone, try not to locate it on a main thoroughfare through the park; it should be easy for incoming guests to find, but still afford a party some semblance of privacy.
To find the perfect location, find the most inviting views on the property. Perhaps there is a view of rolling hills, a forest, a water corridor or a knoll with a large body of water.
Inside the pavilion, picnic tables and waste receptacles must be maintained. Amenities such as electricity and water are nice, of course, but will increase installation and future maintenance costs.
“Build a large pavilion that has a classic structure and plenty of electrical outlets to increase the usability of (it),” says Hudler. “Larger pavilions can be used by more groups.”
Connecting a nearby parking area to a pavilion with a concrete path makes it more accessible for all guests. Plus, a well-defined path will hopefully keep guests off the surrounding grass.
Place trees near the structure, but not too close — limbs and falling leaves will create future problems. Keeping limbs clear of the building also will keep animals off of the roof and insects away from the structure.
In selecting trees, use native species, as non-native and horticulture mutants create plenty of hassles. For inexpensive stock, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Cooperative Extension Service agency or state forestry agency has an annual sale of small saplings. A land-management specialist with the USDA Cooperative Extension or Soil and Water Conservation can help select the best trees for the region and specific location.
To strategically plant trees, consider that conifers planted along the north and northwest side of the pavilion help block the wind and provide a green backdrop. White pines and Norway and blue spruces are excellent selections. Deciduous trees, such as red, sugar, Norway and black maples, red, white and shingle oaks, and sycamores and tulips are effective shade trees. The uniquely patterned and colored bark of sycamores, tulips and oaks will add visual interest to the surroundings.
Keep in mind that saplings may take a few decades to provide shade. Therefore, it might make sense to plant a few mature trees in strategic locations. If cost is an issue, request a donation from a local nursery and in return provide a news release about the donation as well as a plaque at the site.
A pavilion with a large, expansive roof can be a problem-child whenever it rains. There are two options to manage the stormwater runoff:
1. Collect it into rain barrels, and use it to irrigate nearby plantings.
2. Divert it into a rain garden. The shallow depression with deep-rooting native plants will absorb, filter, and slow down the runoff before it reaches waterways.
Ohio’s Clermont County Park District partnered with the Clermont County Soil and Water Conservation District to develop a rain garden as a demonstration as well as to solve a problem.
“We had issues with drainage from the sheer amount of water that the roof produced,” says Chris Clingman, director of Clermont County Parks and Recreation. “The rain garden solved those issues, and people can enjoy looking at the purple coneflowers and black-eyed Susan’s.”
To properly create a rain garden, contact your Soil and Water Conservation District land-management specialist for site-specific recommendations.
Before jumping knee-deep into building a pavilion, invite various interested parties, such as maintenance employees, naturalists, event coordinators and administrative staff members, to share their perspectives. Their thoughts will provide valuable insights to the site’s potential.
Tammy York is the owner of LandShark Communications LLC which specializes in media and public relations for outdoor recreation businesses. Her book, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Cincinnati is available online and in bookstores. You can reach her at email@example.com.