Five Steps for Building a Community Friendly Outdoor Space
There is a distinct difference between a well-loved community park and a simple playground with amenities but no foot traffic. Municipalities, residential communities, and private organizations that wish to create the kind of park that is packed full of families must take the time to make strategic design choices that will encourage community and active use.
Step One: Consultation
The first place to start when developing a new park or playground is to ask and listen to the needs of the community it will serve. Holding a meeting to discuss the expectations for the park and important accommodations for things like special events, outdoor learning, or a designated pet-friendly zone for dogs and their owners to enjoy is important. It helps make every member of the community feel that they are a stakeholder in the success of the project.
Start by talking to your community to identify what matters most and develop a list of essential needs that will address the universal needs of its intended users. It is their park; ask them questions to help define what matters most.
Step Two: Budget
Conceptualizing the design is one thing, but before you start to shop around for play structures and site furnishings for your park, a budget is needed. Frequently the budget phase for large park or playground projects involves a period of time for grant applications or for community fundraising activities to help source funds for the project be completed. This period is often longer than organizations typically anticipate, so don’t get discouraged. Establish a budget and a plan to fund the project, and get the community involved!
Step Three: Design and Itemization
You have the outdoor space; now it’s time to select the right elements that will transform it into a thriving community hub. Take into consideration the age groups that will be using the space. Are you catering to families with young children, or creating an area to hold town-wide events? Answering these questions will help you understand what type of equipment you need, safety measures to take into consideration, the number of people the space needs to accommodate, and so on.
Choose play structures that offer learning, fitness, and child development for the appropriate age group for your community. Our structures are grouped into the following categories: 0-2 years (toddlers), 2-5 years, 5-12 years, and 2-12 years. Are you working with a particularly sunny area? If so, you may want to consider shade structures to protect small children from sunburn and heat exhaustion. Do families like to ride their bikes together to the park? Adding bike racks or a trike path around the playground might be appropriate.
If you’re planning a recreational area for adults, you’ll want to consider a different set of criteria. Is the space geared toward socializing or exercise, or a mixture of both? We offer a line of Outdoor Fitness Equipment that is best suited for this type of project. Are you dealing with a large population of pet-owners? Our dog park equipment can provide the features these park-goers are looking for.
When you have a comprehensive understanding of the experience you want your outdoor space to provide, don’t forget to include furnishings such as park benches, picnic tables, recycling and waste receptacles, fountains, and other key elements that visitors will enjoy. Spend time developing the social aspect of your design, as well. Place furnishings strategically to foster interactions and conversation. This can be as simple as placing a pet fountain next to a park bench, but is crucial to the community-building aspect of the space.
Step Four: Maintenance and Inspection
Consult with your playground manufacturer and project crew to discuss maintenance and inspection requirements for your new park. Playground structures require regular and documented inspection to comply with safety regulations, while other elements like benches, athletic equipment, and safety surfacing have regular maintenance needs.
Create a schedule for inspection to insure that the playground or park is routinely evaluated for safety hazards and damage to equipment. Ask American Parks Company about a referral to a qualified playground inspection service company and/or local representative.
Step Five: Community Launch
When the community, business partners, and organizations have contributed to a playground or park project, it is important to recognize their efforts with a “Grand Opening” of the space. Consider hosting a charitable event as part of the launch to extend goodwill to the greater community, and to welcome all members to visit the new park or playground. Send out a press release or newsletter to announce the successful completion of the project.
By creating a positive and welcoming event you are able to launch the new space accordingly with a warm feeling of shared accomplishment that will help residents create an ongoing relationship with the park.
There is more to a great park than just playground equipment. That’s why our team of playground experts at American Parks Company consult with each client on a per-project basis to understand the dynamics of the outdoor space and the unique needs of the community.
Trust the playground experts at American Parks Company to apply more than thirty years of playground design experience to help you create a multi-generational learning, recreational and fitness hub for your community. Neighborhoods begin at the park.