DESIGN-BUILD Newsletter Image
Pro-bono Work for the Alyssa's Angels
by Linda Poulsen
When our office was asked to design a small park for a local group dedicated to providing opportunities for children with special needs, I wasn’t sure if we should accept the commission. The questions was not whether our office could provide the pro bono service, but rather whether we were prepared to provide our potential client with the services to develop a playground that would fit Alyssa’s Angels needs. Well, I am relieved to say that after numerous hours of research and design, we believe we may have just gotten it. The intent of the playground is to bring children, whether with special needs or not, together in a place where the joy of the playground would be a common bond.

The chosen site, Conway Park in West Long Branch, New Jersey, is an old playground in need of upgrade and repair, located between the local grammar school and high school. The Borough of West Long Branch granted permission for Alyssa’s Angels to develop a park plan. Once installed, the park will be maintained by the Parks and Recreation


Alyssa’s Angels Sensory Garden and Activity Areas
for full-size image, see garden park.pdf


Alyssa’s Angels Playground and Picnic Areas
for full-size image, see play structures.pdf

Department. The park is designed with two main areas: a playground area incorporating barrier free play equipment, and a sensory garden with a central lawn space. The pedestrian entrance to the park from the neighborhood brings users to the playground structures. Greeted with colors, textures, ramps, sound, and more, children of all needs and ages can experience these play structures with a similar excitement. Continuing with this theme is the sensory garden. Transitioning through a series of directional archways adorned with flags, the user can experience the rest of the park in an educational and natural form. Here the scent and colors of various gardens, and the movement, color, and materials on the ground stimulate anyone who passes or lingers in these spaces.

In the end, is it all worth it? Yes. The gratification of knowing you are helping a community get a step closer to its goals is rewarding. The receipt of a thank you letter is acknowledgment enough. It is gratifying to know that, using your design and presentation, Alyssa’s Angels can more easily receive approvals and pitch a park that began simply as an idea. Now it is on paper, a hard copy to present to those who are willing to do their part. So if you have the time and facilities to contribute and give back, you are capable of doing so. I look forward to the day that I can walk in Conway Park and listen to the laughter of children playing.

Linda Poulsen is a junior landscape designer at Pillari, LLC. She can be reached at

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Jay Gehler, ASLA, Chair
(608) 695-6722