July 23, 2021
Landscape Architecture in our Parks and Recreation
By: Trang Vu
July is National Parks and Recreation Month. To celebrate, I wanted to show some extra love to our Landscape Architecture teams and their community enhancing park projects in Virginia and North Carolina. From concept to ribbon cutting, our designers are committed to the communities that these parks serve. I’ve gathered a handful of my favorite parks and rec projects that our landscape architects have worked on to share with you, so let’s get to it!
First up is Mayo River State Park in Rockingham County, North Carolina. Our Raleigh Landscape Architecture group partnered with North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation to develop a master plan for Mayo River State Park. This park was seeing a dramatic increase in visitors from across the state. Our landscape architecture, stormwater, and environmental teams went on multiple visits to assess the park’s conditions. One visit even included a canoe ride down the Mayo River (they really took one for the team there!). Our teams worked together to develop a master plan that created a balance between providing access to the river, increasing recreational opportunities, and protecting the environmentally sensitive corridor. Alongside the master plan, the Timmons Group GIS team provided extensive community engagement for the project in the form of a community outreach website (you can also click here for a demo from the project manager).
Why it’s one of my faves: State parks are beautiful and protected natural spaces and they require careful and thoughtful planning. This project really showed me what goes on behind the scenes to provide more amenities while keeping our state parks environmentally and socially sustainable so that we can enjoy a hike, paddle down the river, or camp next to the fire all while being surrounded by nature.
Next is the Fonticello Carter Jones Park in Richmond, Virginia. Working in collaboration with the City of Richmond’s Department of Parks, Recreation, and Community Facilities (DPRCF), Timmons Group guided the park’s master planning effort, including conducting a site inventory and analysis, developing the site program, facilitating community engagement, and developing the conceptual master plan. A key motivation for this project was to improve the safety and security of children and families in local parks. In 2019, the park’s revitalization initiative was shaken by the tragic death of nine-year old Markiya Dickson who was shot and killed in the park on Memorial Day. In honor of Markiya, a space has been designated in the master plan as the future Markiya Dickson Imagination Zone, which will include an expanded play area and splash pad located adjacent to an amphitheater for community events, a pedestrian plaza, and a memorial space for Markiya. The master plan also celebrates the park’s skate culture with expanded skate facilities and spatially reorganizes the park to improve access and safety with new pedestrian and cycling pathways.
Why it’s one of my faves: In the aftermath of a tragic event, this park was re-envisioned to become a beacon for safe outdoor recreational spaces for children and families.
In an exciting collaboration with Rhodeside Harwell, we recently completed the master plan for Taylor Farm Park in Henrico County, Virginia. Expected to open in Fall of 2023, Taylor Farm Park will be the first new large community park to open in the County since 1982. Divided into east and west developable areas and bisected by 33 acres of environmental features, this 100-acre forested tract was once home to the Taylor Family Farm, which will be commemorated with a ghost structure of the home, orchards, community gardens, and other interpretive opportunities to pay homage to its history in agriculture. As you can see from the master plan below, this park will have a multitude of features including miles of nature trails, shared-use paths, boardwalks, an event space, an outdoor fitness area, a skate park and bike skills park, destination playgrounds, dynamic water play features, treehouses, ziplines, and a memorial garden recognizing the long-standing prevalence of military and public safety service members from the local Sandston Community.
Why it’s one of my faves: This park will have regional significance with dynamic playgrounds and immersive active sports areas unlike any other public park in the state and will be a tremendous asset for Henrico County. With a completely unique program, Taylor Farm Park will be a vibrant social and community hub for the Varina/Sandston area and one that will be shared with people of all ages and abilities from across the region.
Jumping back over to North Carolina, we have the Carolina Raptor Center in Huntersville. The Carolina Raptor Center, a 10-acre project sitting on a 115-acre site, is an educational center with an outdoor amphitheater, outdoor aviary, 3/4-mile-long Raptor Trail, and a new Resident Bird Care Facility. The project also includes Bird Condos, a Flight Deck where the visitors will have the opportunity to see the birds in flight, and cages for the individual predatory birds housed at the Center. Our team had to be very conscious about the environmental impacts and stormwater management for this project since it is located within a critical watershed. Here more about the challenges and future of the Raptor Center from project manager Jason Dolan here.
Why it’s one of my faves: What the Raptor Center does is truly amazing work! Taking in injured animals, bringing them back to health, and releasing them back into nature where they are an integral part of that circle of is an incredible feat. This is recreational project brings attention to critical predatory birds in our region. You know I’ll be visiting when it’s complete!
Last but definitely not least is the Hoover Road Athletic Park in Durham, North Carolina. I have featured this project in a previous blog,so I won’t gush about it too much in this one. This athletic park serves eastern Durham’s growing population and their love for outdoor sports. With four brand-new soccer fields for practice and competition play, walking trails throughout, and a playground, this park is definitely one of a kind!
Why it’s one of my faves: I love that the City took this abandoned land and transformed it into something for generations of athletes and sports fans to come!
A theme in all of these parks that I find myself appreciating is that they are all community-oriented spaces. They will bring communities together and provide a place for gatherings, activities, discovery, fitness, and learning for all. I believe having safe parks and recreation facilities like these makes a community grow stronger together and encourages sustainability for our environment!