October 10, 2013

Rutledge Park Update: Notes on the Community Meeting of October 6th

1)     The intent of this meeting was to provide information to the community and to provide  for community input.  Community input regarding the size of the playground Sunday was clear – most in the community want a bigger playground.

2)     The plan that was presented to the community Sunday, for various reasons, included a smaller playground than was anticipated, and featured more buffer space on both the north and east sides of the playground than is desirable for the most efficient use of the designated space in that area.  The rest of the plan was effective and well received.

3)     It is important to note that the county and their private sector architect are trying hard to work with our very limited budget, and that they have been working in good faith to provide the best design solutions for our scope and needs as defined by the visioning plan within the total budget parameters that are available for design and construction.

4)     We have consumed the hours allocated in the architect’s fees for design and engineering. There are other activities remaining, but we cannot redesign park and playground without blowing up both the schedule and budget, and completely jeopardizing the whole project.

5)     Playgrounds are surprisingly complicated to design, however, Paige and the design team have come up with a solution to the “too small” playground problem.  This solution will require the removal of two trees, a water oak and a suspected Princess tree (Paulownia Tomentosa  –  which if true is an invasive species) on the upper terrace (just south of where the playground is now shown). Once these trees are removed, the playground can expand into that area and will accommodate the installation of three pieces of equipment:

i)   Swing Set

ii)   Slide

iii)  Climbing feature

6)     The playground will be enlarged to accommodate more play equipment.  We don’t know the ultimate size and shape yet, but obviously it will be more expensive.  However, this playground expansion strategy will not require more design fees or re-engineering (hydrology, surveys, grading, etc.), and will not force significant schedule delays.  This is the best solution to the neighborhood demand for a larger playground, along with managing the existing budget and project schedule.  We will have to address the issue of higher costs, but I am confident the community will respond appropriately given the enthusiasm of the responses to expand the playground at the meeting.  Commissioner Jeff Rader has expressed his support of this recommended solution.

7)     The location of the playground at the north end of the park is the most efficient, aesthetic and cost effective location.  It isn’t a mere convenience for county maintenance.  The playground surface will be wood chips, and while they are the best solution for this park they require regular maintenance and replacement.  That will mean lots of wood chips will have to be installed and removed annually.  To have the playground at the end adjacent to the service drive means that a big truck does not have to drive over sidewalks (which will break and crack), outdoor furniture, gardens, borders, plantings, tree roots, etc.

8)     At the meeting the rest of the park design was well received, including the landscape design/planting plan.  The county has also provided a big benefit for the park by arranging to provide tree bank material that saves the project significant costs, and that will make the aesthetics and vegetative screening very effective and non-controversial.

9)     A design note – the visioning plan was a concept plan (a very good one) but not a construction document.  As Walt Ray of Park Pride noted, this design has been kept very close to the intent of the visioning plan, but there are construction realities that have to be accounted for once you get past the concepts.

We can and will make this plan work to meet the community’s desires.  We can expand the playground area and add equipment.  There is an unfortunate loss of two trees, something we have worked hard to avoid, but we will be adding many more.  It will cost more, but we will work to balance that out in design, and work with the community and county to make that manageable.

Please let me know what you and your neighbors think of the proposed expansion of the playground.  The process is still working.  Your input has been heard and acted upon.  We will let the county know what you think.

Tim Ralston

Friends of Rutledge Park

Chairman/Project Manager