Fall 2006 Newsletter
Reports from the Field: the Parks and Recreation PPN

This article was first published in LAND Online, on May 8, 2006

Members of the Parks and Recreation PPN work on park planning, design, construction, and/or administration. While they often work for state or local governments, members may also be found in private practice, frequently in firms where park design and planning is a chief area of specialty.

Three respondents work within city/regional park systems. James Stone, ASLA, Managing Director of Parks, Recreation & Cultural Services for the City of Garland, Texas, oversees the city’s parks system and was recently elected Treasurer of the Dallas/Ft. Worth Park & Recreation Directors. He is proud to report that Garland’s Spring Creek Forest Preserve was selected for inclusion in Dallas/Ft. Worth’s D Magazine as one of the best local birding sites; more than 150 individual bird species have been identified within this riparian woodland natural area.

Stephen M. Casey, ASLA, is park planner and greenway coordinator for the Lee’s Summit, Missouri, Parks and Recreation Department. He plans small-scale park projects and is managing development of a 3 8-mile greenway loop around the city. Casey has been involved in a metro-wide initiative for stormwater management called “10,000 Rain Gardens,” and also works with the city’s public works department on a stormwater plan to develop open space and greenway. Other recent projects include the development of the Children’s Memorial Butterfly Garden at Lowenstein Park, the Logan Memorial Soccer Commons, the Lakewood Community Bike Loop, and master planning for several parks.

Park planner and construction manager Timothy Wachtel, ASLA, works for the city of Shreveport Public Assembly and Recreation Department in Louisiana. Recent work includes designing, bidding, and managing the construction of a skate plaza. The concrete plaza, sited on a capped landfill, occupies 12,000 square feet overlooking the Red River in Shreveport. The plaza does not contain skate ramps; rather, says Wachtel, “it looks like an urban landscape that ‘street’ skaters prefer.”

James A. Speck, ASLA, whose career in parks and recreation stretches over almost 2 0 years, is director of planning and construction for the Metropolitan Park District of the Toledo Area of Ohio. Currently Speck is working on a 0-county regional trail and open space plan for northwest Ohio. Much of his work with parks has involved general management planning, master plans, and regional planning. Speck recently co-wrote the general management plan for a new affiliated unit of NPS, the Fallen Timbers Battlefield and Fort Miamis National Historic Site. The Metropolitan Park District of the Toledo Area will manage the sites for NPS; in preparation for this work, Speck completed the National Park Service’s Fundamentals Training, which gives an overview of park operations on a national level. Speck is a past president of ASLA’s Ohio Chapter and currently chairs ASLA’s Parks and Recreation PPN.

PPN members Lynn M. Crump, ASLA, and William F. Wilsher, ASLA, work for park planning agencies at the state level (Crump) and the county level (Wilsher). At the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Crump develops sections of Virginia’s Outdoors Plan, which she believes is one of the best in the nation. Virginia’s plan captures recreation needs and trends and also examines how these trends will affect future land-use planning. Crump also administers the Scenic Byway and River programs, reviews environmental impact statements, and provides technical assistance to nonprofits and localities on outdoor and recreation planning issues. A recent project that she managed for the main street in Colonial Heights, Virginia, received a Merit Award for Engineering Excellence by the American Council of Engineering Companies.

Wilsher manages a staff of 11 who are charged with planning and overseeing improvements to Palm Beach County’s comprehensive parks and recreation system. One long-term project involved developing a 100-acre “spoil island” called Peanut Island, located in the Intracoastal Waterway. The site now features a campground, picnic areas, docks, a fishing pier, and a swimming/snorkeling lagoon.

Wade Gendreau, ASLA, Robert Birkeland, ASLA, Kent E. Watson, FASLA, and James Ash, ASLA, work in the private sector. Gendreau’s Arizona firm, WG Development Consulting, takes as clients small, fast-growing suburban communities that have limited staff. Gendreau manages the development of municipal parks and recreation facilities using alternative project delivery methods such as design–build and CMAR [Construction Manager at Risk] to “help fast-growing communities deliver park facilities in the shortest time possible for the best value.” An example of a recent success was the town of Queen Creek’s Desert Mountain Park. This design–build project on 36 acres includes ball fields, play areas, and picnic facilities. At a cost of $6 million, the project was delivered in less than 15 months from design–build team selection to grand opening.

Robert Birkeland, ASLA, who works for Restoration Design Group in California, focuses on preserving and restoring urban and rural watersheds while providing public access to waterways, “integrating open spaces and accessibility for the benefit of both.” Two recent projects are Arroyo Viejo Creek and Baxter Creek Gateway. Arroyo Viejo Creek features a series of creekside classrooms that lead young students through the life of a stream. Baxter Creek Gateway incorporates creek restoration, regional trail extension, and a civic plaza at the entry to the town of El Cerrito. A challenge at Baxter Creek was to balance creek and habitat restoration with public access and safety sight lines. This was achieved by carefully sited willow staking, which accommodated creek stabilization and afforded reasonable site surveillance.

Kent Watson, FASLA, of Kent Watson & Associates, calls the area of park planning and design his primary expertise, “so it is important to me that our PPN serve as a network for the most relevant and timely information in this area.” “Most rewarding” is how Watson describes recent work with Native American tribes in Montana and North Dakota. He urges other landscape architects with reservations in their areas to pursue similar relationships, “which can only benefit both parties.” One recent project that has been exciting and challenging is the design of an outdoor amphitheater for an Indian school in North Dakota.

James Ash, ASLA, is a member of STS Consultants. His work over the past 3 0 years has included developing master plans, park plans, and detailed designs. He also helps local agencies with grant applications; in one such project Ash secured grant funding from several sources to complete RiverFront Park in East Peoria, Illinois. The seven-acre park fronts on the Illinois River and now provides festival and passive recreation space for users. Ash enjoys working with community groups to define needs and develop designs for parks and recreation resources; “to me, this is the most exciting part of the work, since people, not agencies, are the prime users.”

ASLA thanks all of the Parks and Recreation PPN members who shared reports of their exciting work and achievements. We know that many more of you have exciting news to share, so we encourage all PPN members to be prepared to respond when the Second Annual Survey goes out in February 2 007. In the meantime, turn to your PPN Listserv and newsletter to exchange information, swap stories, and share achievements with your PPN colleagues. And watch this space for more reports from the field by members of other PPNs.

For more information on ASLA’s PPNs, please contact Jennifer Strassfeld, ASLA’s professional practice manager, at jstrassfeld@asla.org, or visit the PPN website.

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Alison Jumper, ASLA, Chair
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