- The park will be located at 317 E. Apache St. on the site of the former Tibbetts Middle School.
- It will focus on providing universal accessibility and all-inclusive amenities for play, therapy and fitness.
- City officials described it as the first such project in San Juan County and pegged its price tag at $10 million.
FARMINGTON — Supporters of the park planned for all abilities in Farmington got their first glimpse of the new project’s appearance during a May 11 town hall meeting at the Farmington Civic Center as representatives from the Albuquerque company hired to designing the park gave a two-hour presentation on the facility.
Greg Miller, principal of MRWM Landscape Architects, led the meeting, which featured visual displays of some of the design features that could be included in the project, as well as examples of equipment that could be part of the park.
Miller also told members of the crowd, which numbered about three dozen, how the design would be put together and how long that process would take.
The park, which will be located at 317 E. Apache St. on the site of the former Tibbetts Middle School, will aim to provide universal accessibility and all-inclusive facilities for play, therapy and fitness. City officials described it as the first such project in San Juan County and pegged its price tag at $10 million.
Miller started the reunion by describing his own passion for such projects, explaining that his two children were born with a neuromuscular disorder that left them in a cast at just 7 weeks old. Miller responded to their physical challenges by building what he described as a “therapeutic gym” in the family’s backyard, which sparked his interest in the park estate for all abilities.
“It went from a full-on passion to an absolute obsession,” he said.
Miller spent much of the first half of the meeting outlining the science behind designing playpens for all abilities and how they can help promote healthy brain and social development in children. He said well-designed parks for all abilities promote traditional play, as well as play in nature – which includes natural materials and settings and equipment made from natural materials – and inclusive play, which breaks down barriers. and encourages social interaction between children of all abilities.
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The design process for such a park in Farmington began with the May 11 meeting, Miller said, describing that step as the start of the pre-concept design phase. Within a month, Miller and his team will have developed a schematic design. After that, they will move into the design development phase, during which the project will take on actual form and function, he said. Finally, perhaps towards the end of the summer, a final master plan will be unveiled.
“We really owe it to this community to do the best job possible,” he said.
Miller said the options available to create such a park are many, and he promised to share dozens of ideas with the public along the way.
“It’s basically a blank slate, so we can do a lot of cool things,” he said.
Miller said the park would likely include “bubble zones” of uses – meaning small areas of the park devoted to various activities or elements such as big games (swinging, spinning and sliding), small games (sensory games, exploratory elements and shaded games). walkways), large fields and berms, sports fields, water features, nooks and gathering spaces, as well as barriers and fences.
After Miller unveiled visual representations of what these items might look like, his staff solicited public feedback from those gathered by encouraging them to vote for their favorite design via a cell phone app that calculated poll results. in real time.
Miller also noted that a website has already been launched at cofallabilitiespark.org where respondents can take the same 11-question survey and express their preferences for elements and design.
One of the most important decisions designers will make is choosing a guiding principle for organizing the park’s space, Miller said, noting that his company would like the space to reflect the geology of the Fours region. Corners. Thus, the park itself could serve as a miniature version of the Colorado Plateau and its mesas, as well as riparian areas along the San Juan, Animas, and La Plata rivers. It will also feature distinct topography and elevation changes, he said.
During a question-and-answer session with members of the public that followed the presentation, Shaña Reeves, director of the city’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, said funding for the project would likely come from various sources – grants, donations, private foundation and city fundraising efforts.
An audience member asked how her organization would go about donating money for a specific element of the park that she would like to see included. Dennis Mathis of the Connie Gotsch Arts Foundation said his nonprofit would like to fund a section of the park that includes musical equipment.
Reeves encouraged Mathis and others in the organization to reach out to her so they could have a conversation to explore this idea privately.
“We’ll see if we can work to accommodate you,” she said.
Miller responded to a question about the possible inclusion of wheelchair swings in the park by highlighting the issues associated with this type of equipment.
“They’re extremely dangerous,” he said, explaining that children can easily get trapped under such swings and that other parks for all ages that offer such swings require a member of the board to be present. city staff to oversee their use.
But he said his staff intended to develop alternatives that would be available to people in wheelchairs that would give them the same sense of movement or sensation without the danger of a swing.
Miller encouraged everyone to participate in the survey and stay engaged with the park design development process as it unfolds.
“I know we gave you a lot of information tonight,” he said. “I could talk about it for the next 17 hours.”
Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or [email protected] Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.