In our previous two blog posts, we kicked off our series “How to Plan a Neighborhood Park Your Community Will Love” by reviewing the basic principles of park design and strategies for building support among your residents.

Today, in the final post of the series, we roll up our sleeves and get into the project planning phase, where you’ll create the plan that will take you from “square one” all the way through to your opening day … and beyond.

Below we’ve given you some general guidelines for planning your park project, but this list is by no means comprehensive. If you haven’t managed a project like this before, you might want to consider hiring a consultant to help you get started and to provide guidance along the way. You may also want to look into project-management software applications, which make it easy to track your progress and keep all your documentation in one place.

Set Your Goal

Now that you have a clear concept of the park you want to build and have discussed it with your residents, the next step is to set your overall goal. Follow the lead of the best project managers and set a goal that’s SMART:

  • Specific: Be very specific about what the end result of your project will be. How large will your park be? What amenities will be there? How will it serve your community? Who will benefit from it? What impact will it have on property values and demographics?
  • Measurable: How will you know when you’ve arrived at your goal? What criteria will you meet? How will you measure your progress along the way?
  • Achievable: Give the amount of time, money, and other resources available, can you and your team achieve this goal as you’ve defined it? If not, you might need to make some adjustments.
  • Relevant: How will this park serve your community? Be sure to consider its impact in the near and distant future as well as the present.
  • Time bound: When do you aim to have your park completed? It’s true that delays happen due to weather and other factors, but it’s important to have a completion date in mind. Remember, you can always adjust it if necessary.

Determine Milestones

Map out the significant achievements — the milestones — that will mark major steps in progress toward your goal. For your park, these might include preparing the ground, installing amenities, and completing landscaping.

Build a Deliverables List

Break down each milestone into specific tasks. For example, the milestone “Install Playground,” will include tasks such as applying for permits, selecting a builder, choosing a model, choosing the safety surfacing, scheduling installation, and other tasks. Be as specific and thorough as you can.

Build a Timeline

Now gather your list of tasks (you’ll have a lot of them) and build a timeline, keeping in mind that some milestones must be completed before work on others can begin. For example, you can’t build structures before the ground has been prepared, so build that dependency into your plan. Also, remember that contractors are not always available at the exact moment we need them, so consult your contractors to confirm their availability at the point in your timeline when their services are needed.

Get Started and Track Your Progress

Ready … set … GO! It’s time to start tackling those first deliverables as they appear on your timeline. Remember to always track your progress so that on any given day, you can tell exactly how far you are from achieving your goal. If delays happen (and they probably will), adjust your plan accordingly.

Celebrate!

Once your park is complete, remember to celebrate your success! Even small parks are big achievements, so remember to reward your team, and schedule a grand-opening event to welcome residents to their brand-new space. Include fun elements like food, face painting, live entertainment, games for the kids, and more. Put up streamers, balloons, and other eye-catching visuals to serve as an invitation for everyone to come join in the fun.

 

Good luck, and happy planning!

In our previous blog post, we kicked off our series “How to Plan a Neighborhood Park Your Community Will Love” by reviewing the basic principles of park design and sharing some tips on choosing the amenities for your outdoor space.

 

Of course, a vital part of the planning process is collaboration with the people who will be using and living alongside the space day after day: your residents. Here are a few strategies for building — and keeping — support among your residents all the way through to completion.

Start Early

To ensure support for your park, it’s important to involve residents as early in the process as possible. Remember that your initiative will impact everyone in the neighborhood — not just those who will use the space once it’s complete. Some of your residents, for example, might be concerned about how the addition will affect issues such as drainage, parking, and security. Be sure to address both benefits and possible challenges as you introduce the idea to your community.

Vary Your Approach

For soliciting resident input, remember that people have different preferences when it comes to how they express their opinions. Some prefer live “town hall”-type events, while others prefer the privacy of surveys. Make sure to incorporate at least two of the following methods in soliciting the opinions of the people in your community:

  • Open meetings
  • Focus groups
  • Paper surveys
  • Online surveys
  • Phone surveys

Keep Them Posted

Keep your residents continuously updated on the progress of your neighborhood park project. You may want to start a Facebook page where you post regular updates on developments, delays, and your projected opening date. Encourage residents to follow the page so that they’re always in the loop.

 

In Part III of our series, we’ll talk about how to get your neighborhood park project buttoned up and ready to roll. Stay tuned!

New neighborhoods are springing up all over southeast Texas, and those that offer dedicated parks have an automatic advantage in attracting young, active families. If you’re still in the planning phase for your subdivision, think about including an outdoor space that gives neighbors a place to meet, to be active, and to enjoy the outdoors, with something for every member of the family. And if your neighborhood is already established, consider that adding a park will give you a competitive edge in enticing house-hunters.

In Part I of our series on planning community spaces, we’ll talk about the basics that every neighborhood  park needs.

Park Design Basics

According to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, neighborhood parks typically fit the following criteria:

  • Between ¼ and ½ mile from neighborhood houses
  • Not separated from neighborhood houses by major roads
  • Free from physical barriers that would prevent walking access
  • Designed for all ages and all groups to enjoy

How should you allocate the space in your new park? In its resource Park, Recreation, Open Space and Greenway Guidelines, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) recommends that about 50 percent of your park’s space be dedicated to active recreation spaces, including your playground. The remaining half can be used “for passive activities, reserve, ornamentation, and conservation as appropriate.”

Choosing Amenities

Your playground is just one of the many amenities that can make your park more attractive to residents of all ages, all year long. When choosing amenities, keep in mind the space you have available, the size of your neighborhood, the demographics of your residents, and of course, your budget.

The list of amenities to choose from is vast and varied; here are a few of the most popular options:

 

Of course, if your budget permits, more elaborate amenities such as swimming pools and tennis courts are also attractive possibilities. Make sure you have an idea of the funds available before you come up with your amenities list and begin reviewing your options.

In Part II of our series, we’ll talk about how to work with the residents of your neighborhood and invite their input into the park planning process. Stay tuned!

Now that school’s out, the kids in your community will be looking for ways to spend the long days between family vacations and summer camp. All too often, they turn to sedentary activities like playing video games and watching TV (not to mention that most popular of all kids’ summer activities, sleeping late!) instead of more active pursuits. And without recess and school sports to keep them moving, this lack of physical activity can take a toll on their health.

Now is the perfect time to get the families in your community to say “yes” to a more active summer, for both kids and adults. And could there a better hub for these activities than your playground area?

Here are a few ideas to share with your community for ensuring a healthier, more active summer for all:

  • For adults and teens, organize a morning “boot camp” at your playground that mixes calisthenics (jumping jacks, pushups, etc.) with more lighthearted activities such as wheelbarrow races.
  • For families with babies and toddlers, start a moms’ walking group and designate a stroller-friendly path around your grounds. Each walk can end with a series of “mommy and me” fitness activities, like the ones on this list from Parenting magazine.
  • For families with school-age kids, give out “scorecards” that let them enter a star every time they log at least 30 minutes of active play at your playground, and offer rewards at the end of the summer for kids who accumulate the most stars.
  • Organize special events like kite-flying meetups, field days, and fun runs to bring families together in the spirit of healthy activity.

When planning scheduled activities, remember that we’ll be dealing with that famous Texas heat, so morning or early evening times are best to avoid the risk of overheating.

With a little creativity and some help in spreading the word, you can encourage the families in your neighborhood to enjoy the healthiest, most active summer ever … and have some fun at the same time.

 

Playgrounds play an important role in every child’s development. Whether you’re planning to build a new playground for your school, church, or community in the new year or want to expand and upgrade an existing one, budgeting is key. The planning phase is the most critical step in this undertaking, and you’ll want to pay close attention to the following areas.

Equipment

The overall budget for a playground is generally determined by the number of kids you expect to play there at a single time. The rule of thumb for this is to allocate $1,000 per child in your budget. This is, however, not the case if you want to build a themed playground, which will be more costly. The age group of the kids you expect to frequent your playground will also play a role in your choice of equipment.

Surfacing

Safety surfacing is a must-have for any playground to prevent injuries from falls. The budget for preparing the site area and installing surfacing, such as wood and rubber, depends on the type of surface you want. Keep in mind that surfacing like engineered wood fiber requires maintenance over the course of the year, while rubberized surfaces require little or no maintenance, making it a cheaper option in the long run.

Amenities

Amenities will attract more families to your playground, and of course these costs must also be factored into your budget. Consider whether you want to  include benches, grills, tables, bike racks and other accommodations. Make sure the costs of amenities you choose fall within your budget and that they will appeal to the families in your community (think about demographics, ages of kids, proximity of bike trails, etc).

Installation

Another item to keep in mind when budgeting for your playground is the installation cost. This includes site preparation, surfacing and installation of the equipment. Depending on the site, additional preparation may be required when clearing the area for installations, which can increase your costs. Therefore, always ensure that you know the landscape and what will be required to prepare it for your playground.

Freight Costs

Shipping costs for your equipment vary depending on the company you order from as well as their proximity to your location. The further away the company, the higher the shipping costs will be. Do some research and see if you can get the same materials and equipment from companies that are closer to you.

 

A few additional tips:

  • Make sure all the right permits are in place before you begin your project.
  • You can save on costs by choosing a site that is relatively flat and has good drainage.
  • Account for the costs surrounding sidewalks, wheelchair-accessible paths, and good drainage if these are not already in place.
  • Make arrangements for a storage facility in case your equipment arrives earlier than anticipated.

Good luck!

Yes, the world has greatly changed since the U.S. park system was created in the 1930s, but the importance of parks and playgrounds in the lives of American children has never changed.

Today some might question the need for more or better parks and playgrounds, based on their belief that children prefer video games and other indoor activities. But a new report released by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) tells us that nothing could be further from the truth. According to the 2016 report, an overwhelming number of Americans believe that parks play a vital role in the lives of their children, their communities and themselves. In fact, 7 in 10 Americans go to their local parks, and 4 in every 5 believe that our parks are worth investing in.

perceptions-infographic

The report also states that despite digital transformation, demographic shifts, and change in the way both adults and children interact with each other, public support for local parks is at an all-time high.

The U.S. National Park Service sees further benefits of the national and local parks as well as children’s playgrounds. These outdoor assets are an important part of the America’s educational system, where children not only get to see and experience some of the things they learn in class but also pick up important social skills.

The NRPA report concludes that “besides the prevailing tight fiscal environment, Americans agree that local, state and national leaders need to dedicate financial resources to sustain and expand local park and other leisure facilities.”

So the next time someone offers resistance to your new or expanded playground plans, point them to this report and infographic, and remind them that the public’s passion for outdoor play is alive and well in America!

The evolution of playground equipment has spanned from welded-together pipes to the scientifically designed structures presently available in the market. Today’s playgrounds take a positive approach to providing children with creative play, enhancing their imaginations, and promoting activity and fitness. Here are a few of the design trends we’re seeing today:

1. Themed playgrounds

Themed playgrounds have become popular accessories for both parks and schools as the playground becomes less a collection of isolated features and more of a holistic learning ground. Whether it echoes a dinosaur camp or an enchanted castle, a themed playground gives facilities an extra sense of energy and make them favorite choices for most kids.

2. Natural playgrounds

If you’ve ever climbed a tree or rolled in a pile of leaves, you’ve experienced natural play. However, these activities are increasingly becoming outdated with the rise of the internet and video games. It’s for this reason that natural playgrounds and spaces are becoming popular: to break technology’s stronghold on kids’ imaginations and overcome what author Richard Louv calls “Nature Deficit Disorder.” Natural playgrounds provide kids with a place for imaginative play while encouraging them to reconnect with nature.

3. Inclusive playgrounds

We’re seeing more playgrounds that are accessible to all members of the community, including kids with disabilities and even grownups. Inclusive playgrounds are helping whole neighborhoods to become more active and healthy. Studies also show that kids who see their parents and other adults engage in exercise are more motivated to do it themselves.

4. Safety-first playgrounds

When it comes to playgrounds, safety is something that never goes out of style. Kids and parents are happier when the playground is safe, and the whole community benefits. We all know it’s impossible to prevent injuries completely, but taking the necessary steps to reduce the risk is important. Recreation managers are choosing safe surfaces, ensuring adequate shade, and selecting age-appropriate structures for their spaces.

 

As many recreational managers consider updating equipment and adding structures to their playgrounds, it’s important to remember that coming up with a theme to fit a new playground doesn’t have to be difficult. In truth, almost any motif can be a success; all you need is a little imagination and some creativity … and of course, a partner who can help turn your vision into a reality.

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