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Back to Basics

Seven Guidelines to Creative Park Design

By Daniel P. Smith


Years ago, inviting public participation was a courtesy, and sometimes an empty one devoid of any real weight. Today, however, the public process is a best practice employed by most design firms.

The public process allows the design team, parks department leaders and civic hierarchy the opportunity to hear community concerns and questions and, perhaps most importantly, identify project champions capable of driving the approval process. Inviting public input also affords designers critical insight into what will make the park most meaningful to its users.

"You need to understand if the community is willing or wanting to accommodate a proposed offering, and interacting with the neighborhood around the park is the best way to get that done," Inman said.

With one recent community park project in Muskego, Wis., Burch's team met individually with 15 different community stakeholders to gather their respective input. Later, a public meeting invited further dialogue. The conversations not only stimulated community support, but also spurred the design team in new directions to ensure that the completed park filled the community's needs and wishes.

To further cultivate public input and generate excitement for a given park project, Burch's team also has spoken at schools and provided handouts for students to take home as well as set up design workshops in public spaces, in which a Bonestroo designer works on the plan in an accessible public space (city hall or the library, for instance) to spawn additional community interaction and enthusiasm.

"There's simply too much value in getting in front of the stakeholders and potential users not to do it," Burch said.

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