Parks & Recreation Updates

Posted on: April 4, 2017

Indian Trail Park Playground Construction

Durham Parks and Recreation (DPR) has received funding from City Council to replace the aging features of Indian Trail Park. DPR has been working with the community to develop the best new features for their newly restored playground. Construction will begin April 10 and the playground will open in June.

Playground Planning with the Community

Last summer DPR hosted two community meetings, to discuss the replacement for the Indian Trail Playground. Residents, especially children, talked about what they wanted to see in the play features, selected the activities they thought would be fun, and even got to draw ideal features. Staff also had games and activities for the children.  At these meetings, Stormwater services staff discussed the unique floodplain environment and extra steps designers would need to take. The data collected was used to help DPR staff select the playground designers who would capture the design based on the community’s input.

This winter, DPR staff met again with residents, especially children, at Walltown Park Recreation Center to show the playground designers’ concepts for Indian Trail. Residents discussed the process with the staff and chose between two playground designs. They also chose the best color schemes. Out of this session a clear winner emerged and Kompan was selected to develop the play features.

Horvath Engineering was selected to insure that the playground would work with the floodplain environment and apply for the necessary permits.  

Tree Health and Natural Play features

DPR Staff and the community residents like the shady tree canopy of Indian Trail Park and want it to remain intact. The community expressed a love of the natural aspects of the park. Unfortunately, staff noticed one of the sweet gum trees was diseased and reported it to the City’s Urban Forester. The Urban Forester evaluated the tree and decided that it would not live long. (It was diagnosed with phytopthora, a fungal disease of the cambial layer.)

DPR staff regretted the loss of the tree, but saw this as an opportunity to enhance nature based play. DPR developed specifications for the tree to be cut into small segments (known as cookies) for use as natural play features in the park. The stump will remain as a feature and a seat. The woodchips will be used to control invasive weeds. DPR will plant trees and grasses to replace the sweet gum and enhance the natural play aspects of the playground. These plants will be from a list recommended by Robin Moore’s book “Plants for Play: A Plant Selections Guide for Children’s Outdoor Environments.”

Construction and Reuse

Construction will begin on the new Indian Trail Playground in April. The playground will be closed from April 10 through mid-May. During this time the community will see a lot of activity.  The diseased sweet gum will be cut down and the pieces will be saved on site. The mulch from the playground will be used on site for invasive species control. The existing play features will be deconstructed. The existing playground features are no longer suitable for children, but they can be repurposed to make play more fun for canine companions. Duke Dog Park is being redesigned using play elements from de-constructed playgrounds.

Reese Construction Company will repair the cracked sidewalks around the playground and install the Kompan playground equipment. The drainage and safety surfacing will be replaced and finally the plants for play will be installed.

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is always a consideration in park planning. Among many other factors visibility of features is a consideration in good CPTED design. Visibility can be blocked by many things.  In Indian Trail Park’s case, visibility to the playground to the parking lot is blocked by invasive vegetation. The community feedback sessions also brought up a need for visibility from the parking lot. For this, DPR is enlisting an unusual ally: goats.

DPR project management cost estimated the price to remove vegetation by both human power and goat power. Goats came out as cheaper, and vastly more fun. Prior to opening, goats from the Goat Squad will be enlisted to clear up the invasive vegetation that blocks views of the playground.

Durham Parks and Recreation Teams Up with the Goat Squad

On May 11, The Goat Squad, a local targeted grazing business, will bring twenty- four  goats to the Northern section of the park between Indian Trail and the playground area. The goats will clear unwanted vegetation, brush, and invasive species to increase visibility of the playground from the parking lot and trail.

The Goat Squad will graze on brush and vegetation for approximately three days.

The public is invited to come by and view the goats at work. They are very friendly and are accustomed to people. The goats will be contained in a portable electric fence throughout their stay. Onlookers should avoid touching the fence and refrain from petting the goats unless Goat Squad staff are present to disconnect the fence and supervise public interaction with the goats.

Using goats to remove vegetation is good for both the environment and the bottom line. Traditional methods for removing vegetation can compact soils and expose waterways, wildlife and people to potentially harmful chemicals. Goats love eating the plants we want removed including kudzu, poison ivy, privet, wisteria, honeysuckle bamboo and mixed brush. Their triangular mouths crush what they consume so the seeds that lead to new growth are no longer viable.  When the goats depart, their manure serves as a natural high-quality soil fertilizer. 

In the coming weeks, the park will be open with a new playground to include play structures for ages 2-5 and 5-12 year olds, swings, and more. 

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