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«Recreation Plan Recreation Grants Branch State Parks Division 4200 Smith School Road • Austin, Texas 78744 © 2012 TPWD. PWD ...»

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Playgrounds have become less and less challenging and interesting for children. Over the past several years the interest in “adventure” or “natural” playgrounds has increased tremendously, especially in urban neighborhoods. These types of playgrounds are based on the belief that children should be offered a safe place to play, where they can manipulate and create their own play environment. This in turn helps children develop skills, no matter the age, to solve problems, be creative, invent, and organize.

Natural Play Elements consist of loose materials such as wood blocks, logs, and limbs;

tires, sand, water, or anything that might be found around the site. Natural terrain, vegetation, rock outcroppings, and other natural features feed into the play experience.

As these types of playgrounds may not be appropriate for all situations and sites, planners and designers are encouraged to analyze all aspects to assess the feasibility for such facilities, including the feasibility for long term maintenance of the area.

Several resources on this subject may be found on the Internet and in various books, the newest being by Lisa Horne, entitled Nature at Play.

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Building materials reuse is one of the most sustainable activities associated with our built environment. Deconstruction is the practice of disassembling a building in such a way that the materials (joists, flooring, siding, fixtures, and more) can be reused for new construction. With some planning and forethought, deconstruction is a cost competitive alternative to conventional building demolition.

Energy Conservation

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Efficient Lighting Efficient outdoor lighting can produce significant energy and cost savings. Additionally, when combined with dark sky principles, which seek to minimize the amount of light pollution created by outdoor lighting, it can have an even more significant impact on the environment. There are many efficient outdoor lighting products on the market and newer, more efficient alternatives are being introduced each year. Communicate to your designer that you want to invest in the most efficient lighting product that will meet your needs. Evaluate the equipment that will work best for the specific situation and examine the full operational cost along with the initial “first” cost of the equipment to determine the most sustainable choice. Do not forget to consider the operations cost of bulb replacement and maintenance. Having to rent expensive equipment to reach high places can sometimes offset the added cost of more expensive equipment if it has a longer anticipated burn time.

More Information:

Department of Energy Day lighting Information – www.energysavers.gov/your_home/lighting_daylighting/index.cfm/mytopic=12020 Efficient Mechanical Systems (pumps and motors) Selecting efficient mechanical equipment will have a long-term impact on the energy use of a site. Pumps and motors can have increased efficiency with Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) Motors, which can operate at partial capacity when only a portion of the work is needed, thereby conserving energy. If your site has air conditioning, selecting a

Texas Outdoor Recreation Plan Chapter 8 – Sustainable Park Design

unit with a higher Energy Efficiency Rating (EER) or Seasonal EER (SEER) can also make a noticeable impact on utility savings. Currently, many areas have a code that requires a minimum efficiency of 13 SEER on smaller rooftop HVAC units. Upgrading that unit beyond current code, to a 16 or even 17 SEER unit, for example, will cost more up-front and may need to be pre-ordered by the contractor, but can yield savings over time that pay down the upfront expense of that unit. Ask your HVAC technician or contractor to see what types of efficient equipment are available for your needs.

Additionally, a smaller unit may be used if you have taken supplementary measures to improve the envelope (walls, flooring, and roof) surrounding your building, which can help reduce initial unit cost.

More Information:

CEE Paper on System Efficiency – www.advancedbuildings.net/29-mechanical-systems-efficiency Alternative Transportation About half of the energy used in the US is consumed through the use of automobiles and trucks, and burning just one gallon of gasoline emits almost 20 pounds of carbon dioxide; a greenhouse gas. There are several ways to encourage park users to utilize alternative transportation. Parks may offer more traditional support for alternative transportation such as bike lanes and safe bike parking, as well as bus stops, sidewalks, and connecting trails. Some sites are even using preferred alternative fuel vehicle parking and electric vehicle charging stations to encourage site users to invest in and use alternative transportation.

More Information:

NPF Program – www.nationalparks.org/news/?fa=viewArticle&articleID=2516 NPS Program at Glacier Bay – www.nps.gov/glba/parknews/alternativetransportation-program-at-glacier-bay.htm

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Irrigation Licensed irrigation designers need to work hand-in-hand with landscape architects to ensure proper amounts of water are applied specific to the plant material installed.

Overwatering of plant material can weaken the plant and allow disease and pests to attack the weak plant. Overwatering can also cause soil compaction. Efficient design of the system to avoid over spraying in some local governments is mandated by law and/or ordinance and should be investigated. Water for irrigation can also be utilized for rainwater catchment systems.

Rainwater Catchment

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More Information:

American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association - www.arcsa.org/ Tx Water Development Board - www.twdb.state.tx.us/innovativewater/rainwater/ Water Reuse

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Stormwater Management Incorporating stormwater management techniques into a parks system can help recreation providers save money by maintaining and encouraging natural filtration systems. Having an appropriate stormwater management system can reduce runoff and reduce the heat island effect. An effective way to incorporate stormwater management into a sustainable park design is to utilize erosion control mechanisms. For more information on erosion control, please see below.

Erosion Control Mechanisms

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Chapter 8 – Sustainable Park Design Texas Outdoor Recreation Plan

More Information:

Stormwater Management Handbook for the Houston Area www.cleanwaterways.org/downloads/professional/construction_handbook_full.pdf TCEQ Stormwater Regulations www.tceq.texas.gov/permitting/wastewater/industrial/ Permeable Pavement - www.perviouspavement.org/ TX State Soil & Water Conservation Board - www.tsswcb.texas.gov/en/EQIP-319 Wetlands, Streams, and Shorelines

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More Information:

Texas Treasures www.tpwd.state.tx.us/publications/pwdpubs/media/pwd_bk_k0700_0908.pdf These wetlands at the Sheldon Environmental Learning Center provide habitat to nearly 250 bird species throughout the year including the Rosette Spoonbill, Osprey, and Bald Eagle.

Texas Outdoor Recreation Plan Chapter 8 – Sustainable Park Design

Landscaping Texas is geographically large and there are many climate and ecosystems that exist in the state. As such, specifics for the categories listed below can change from region to region of the state, and may even vary within a county. It is recommended that recreation providers contact the Texas County AgriLife Extension Service in the county in which the project resides for help on specific projects. For information on how to contact a specific county agent refer to www.agrilifeextension.tamu.edu

Integrated Pest Management strategies

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a strategy used in home, commercial, public, and horticultural/agricultural landscapes to manage insect pests by using economically and environmentally sustainable management practices. IPM programs do not eliminate or eradicate pests, but are geared more to strengthen a plant and its ecosystem so that plants are able to combat problems. The concepts used in today’s IPM strategies evolved from those used in apple and cotton production during the 1950s and 1960s.

Using chemical treatment to combat plant pests is no longer viable, environmentally or culturally. IPM utilizes a combination of landscape practices to combat pest problems

before they crop up. These practices include:

• Utilize disease and pest resistant varieties of plants

• Proper site and soil preparation as the effects of this on the health of installed plant materials greatly affects the plant’s ability to ward off disease and pests.

• Only use a combination of cultural (non-chemical), mechanical, biological (predators, parasites, and pathogens), and as a last resort, chemical (least toxic) methods of pest management.

It is recommended that if an IPM program is desired, that an IPM Program Plan be developed to aid your entity and your staff in implementation of the program.

Invasive Species

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Native, Adaptive, Appropriate Landscapes Native and appropriate plant material should be utilized on project sites that are suitable for the specific project and for the specific use and desired effect.

Consult a local professional for specific recommendations.

Organics Organic landscape development involves the use of essential practices and principles including soil building, conservation, pest and disease management, and plant selection. It includes the use of only naturally produced fertilizers and non-chemical means of pest control, as well as other sustainable techniques discussed in this document. Consult a local professional for specific available resources in your area, and for specific recommendations for the project site.

Re-used Plants (see Building Materials)

Re-using vegetation, rocks, and soil displaced by construction is a positive way to reduce costs, minimize waste, and encourage the preservation of native natural elements. Pre-planning what will be re-used, where it will be stored during construction (if needed), and other specific needs of the vegetation may impact your decision to attempt this sustainability measure. However, the potential cost savings may be significant and worth the added effort.

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Waste Diversion Waste Diversion involves diverting construction and demolition materials from the landfill to recycling or reuse. To achieve this goal, a job site must be well-managed and organized. Waste diversion helps to save money through lower tipping (landfill dumping) fees and by providing a cleaner site, which is safer to walk through, resulting in fewer opportunities for falls, injuries, or fire.


Just a few years ago it was a common practice to throw empty beverage containers into the trash can. Times have changed and people young and old understand the sustainable benefits of recycling. Today park users expect facilities to offer recycling opportunities. Not only does this help reduce waste disposal fees, recycled material could also generate revenue for parks. If recreation providers are interested in starting a recycling program in their park, a good place to begin is by contacting a local waste disposal contractor. Many contractors also offer recycling programs and this service can be negotiated into current contracts.

More Information:

EPA Park Recycling Guide www.epa.gov/epawaste/conserve/rrr/rogo/venues/parks.htm Compost Compost is a soil amendment made from biodegradable landscape items such as tree trimmings and lawn clippings, and is an excellent source of nutrients for landscape areas. Compost mimics the naturally occurring decomposition material found on forest floors that feeds native habitats. The use of compost in landscapes can reduce the use of water, fertilizers, and pesticides. Additionally, composting can suppress plant diseases and pests by making plants and soils stronger and healthier. To determine the amount and type of compost to be added as a soil amendment, a soils test should be conducted on the project site. Consult a local professional for specific recommendations.


Mulch is a protective layer that mimics the natural leaf cover found on forest floors; it is placed over the soil in landscaped areas to retain moisture, reduce erosion, provide nutrients (as it breaks down), and suppress the growth and seed germination of weeds.

Materials used as mulch vary and selection of the appropriate material should be based on several factors including availability, cost, appearance, and the effect the mulch will have on the soil (pH, durability, combustibility, rate of decomposition, and cleanliness).

Mulch materials may be organic (leaves, bark chips, wood chips, straw, grass clippings, Chapter 8 – Sustainable Park Design Texas Outdoor Recreation Plan shredded bark or wood, and gravel) or inorganic (shredded rubber, plastic, and crushed glass). Native mulch derived from native and local trees is preferred to provide nutrients back to the local soils. Local sources are also preferred as some chemical reactions and pH issues may be at issue if non-local sources are used. To determine the amount and recommended type of mulch to add, you should consult a local professional for specific recommendations.

Social Impacts Recreation providers understand the importance of considering the social impacts of their respective park systems. It is important to ensure that public outdoor recreation areas are safe and accessible for the community. In terms of incorporating sustainability, by minimizing exposure to second hand smoke and other air pollutants, recreation providers can further improve the local/state park environment for park visitors and the community at large.


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