Thoughtful Planning For A Peaceful Park

Photos and Article By Parviz Izadjoo

Evans Parkway Neighborhood Park in Silver Spring, Md., was originally built in the 1960s. The park provides a walk-to facility for residents of the single-family homes surrounding the park as well as the nearby apartments. The 7.5-acre park, which was in need of renovation, included an informal play field, playground, two tennis courts, a full-size basketball court, and open fields at both ends. A concrete-lined stream bisected the park in the eastern portion of the site. An old, rusty metal and concrete bridge with a couple of steps connected the two parts.

The new design approach emphasizes a more natural treatment of the park. Paved areas were to be kept to a minimum and many natural areas were proposed instead:

  • Meadow grass
  • Rain gardens
  • Mowed lawn
  • Riparian plantings at the restored floodplain
  • Shade and flowering plants.

Many amenities and design elements were incorporated:

Restored Natural Stream
An important part of this renovation was the removal of a 300-linear-foot section of concrete-lined stream that bisected the park. The stream has been restored to its natural state with a new floodplain and riparian vegetation. This naturalization project is expected to serve as a demonstration for future stream-naturalization efforts within the county and an invitation for greater community interest in watershed improvements.

Sport Facilities
Park neighbors were concerned that the multi-purpose field and the full-size basketball court would attract older youths and adults from other areas to the park, preventing younger kids from using these amenities. Therefore, the park’s residents favored a redesign of the sport facilities to cater to less-organized use, particularly for younger kids, and to discourage use by organized groups. To honor the residents’ requests, the multi-purpose field was reduced in size for informal use, and the full-size basketball court not only was modified to two half courts but moved away from the neighboring homes, closer to Georgia Avenue.

Drinking Fountain
A drinking fountain that also accommodates a drinking area for dogs was installed near the basketball courts.

Play Equipment
The existing swings and play structures were relocated within a larger playground area adjacent to the open multi-use field. This placement separates the play area from the more mature sports areas.

A small pavilion was installed adjacent to the new playground to provide shaded seating for playground users and observers.

Educational Signage
Signs were installed near storm-water management features to help the public learn about their function and important role.

Public Art
The Montgomery County Public Arts Trust supported EvansParkwayNeighborhoodPark as a location for public art. The trust paid for the artist's design fees. The artwork—consisting of vertical elements visible from a distance—not only provides unique visual features for the park, but is educational and interactive. It consists of four large granite rocks approximately 5 feet by 8 feet with an average thickness of 5 inches, standing on their sides and tied to concrete footings. An image of native wildlife is etched on each rock, and a peep hole is drilled into each rock. They are strategically situated on both sides of the naturalized stream along the walking path. Each rock faces toward the habitat of the wildlife that is etched on the rock. By looking through the hole, one is able to see where the wildlife lives.

Loop Path
This park is designed with extensive walking paths that loop throughout the park and connect all amenities. Members of the community favored design of this feature in feedback meetings.

Information Kiosk
Montgomery County Department of Parks is considering installing interactive information kiosks at certain parks, and EvansParkwayNeighborhoodPark was selected for the pilot study. The kiosk will be an onsite customer service, providing computer access to the park’s website as well as users having the ability to reserve amenities and pay online. Wi-Fi also will be provided for a nominal fee.

Sustainable Site Initiative
The Sustainable Sites Initiative is a partnership between the American Society of Landscape Architects, the LadyBirdJohnsonWildflowerCenter, the United StatesBotanic Garden, and other organizations that encourage sustainable practices in design, construction, operations, and maintenance of open areas. Evans Parkway has also been among the limited number of parks selected for the pilot program.

The entire park is accessible within the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) requirements. An access path to all of the features and no walkway exceeds the ADA’s 5-percent maximum slope.

Know The Three Cs Of A Project
A vital key to successfully managing and completing any project is to obtain as much background knowledge as possible. Significant delays, cost increases, or complete project failure may result from missing an important piece of information. The information vital to a project consists of three areas:

  • Community/user group
  • Construction site
  • Consultant/contractor.

    The Community

The community or the user group involves those who will experience the final product; they will ultimately determine whether the project is successful or not. Therefore, the community should be heard and their input valued.

Montgomery County Department of Parks as a public agency definitely pays attention to the feedback from the public—the most important stakeholders of projects. Meeting notices are mailed to residents within a certain radius of the project. These meetings continue until the project design is completed and ready for construction documents. In the end, the final design reflects the community’s needs.

The Construction Site
The site must be investigated thoroughly. Although department staff thought an adequate investigation had been completed with standard geotechnical testing of the soil and an agency search that uncovered no evidence of a landfill at Evans, it was revealed during site excavation and grading that there was a massive amount of buried trash, including glass bottles at shallow depths. Fortunately, the costs associated with this discovery were covered through a contingency budget.

The Consultant
Design consultants—particularly those who are more experienced—have developed styles of their own. During the selection process, it is important to review the prospective consultants’ previous works and especially the design styles and materials utilized on those projects.

Parviz Izadjoo , Ph.D., RLA, is the Project Manager for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Montgomery County Department of Parks, in Silver Spring, Md. Contact him at (301) 650-2893.
Look For Opportunities To Think Green
Thinking “green” is a popular concept—not just for parks and rec people—but for anyone hoping to make a positive impact on his or her surroundings. To obtain the most support from residents and to do what’s best for the environment, consider every possible option in order to provide a sustainable park. For instance, restore natural elements, such as streams, floodplains, vegetation, etc. Incorporate green design features, such as no-irrigation landscaping, high-reflection surfaces to reduce heat sink, solar collectors or even a wind tower if feasible, native plants for landscaping, and shade trees for paved areas. Where possible, minimize paved areas and install pervious pavements. All of these efforts show a genuine care not only in providing a wonderful experience for residents, but for future generations that will inherit a well-planned park.