A 32 acre park located in Cherokee County, Patriots Park includes recreational amenities and facilities for everyone in the community. The centerpiece of the park is an Inclusive Playgroundand Adaptive Use Field named Freedom Field, serving those with disabilities. Other park features include two little league baseball fields, large and small dog parks, paved walking trail, concession stand, and over 12 acres of preserved open space.
The new park provides connectivity to adjacent neighborhoods and provides something unique for all of Cherokee County: Athletic fields and playing surfaces for all athletes, including those with disabilities, low vision, hard of hearing and those using wheelchairs. Freedom Field is an Adaptive Use playing field, with a special surface adaptable to various activities and sports. The adjacent playground and concession stand are also designed with special adjustments to be inclusive. This park is 7-years in the making and is the first facility of its type in Cherokee County.
Further, the addition of the dog parks, walking trail and little league fields help to contribute to a lively park with athletes and families of all types coming together to enjoy the beautiful park. With gently rolling terrain, conserved woods, open space, and pockets of saved trees throughout, the park has a unique sense of place.
Description of Significant Project Impact
The primary impact of the park is the creation of Cherokee County’s first Adaptive Use Playing Field and Inclusive Playground. In order to successfully implement the design, the project team consulted with Robert Strozier, the Cherokee County Miracle League Program Organizer. Smith Planning Group helped to coordinate with Shaw Industries to construct a small prototype of the playing surface, which utilizes a combination of Shaw’s TruHop 46 synthetic turf, coupled with a Brock Powerbase to provide both enough stability and cushion for various special sports and activities. Mr. Strozier was invited to test the proposed surface to ensure it met the requirement for his league. Traditionally, the Miracle League uses special fields with poured in place rubberized surfaces. However, because these fields are smooth they often look different and play differently which significantly limit their use. On the other hand, typical synthetic turf fields are too soft and difficult for wheelchairs to navigate. By using a combination of short synthetic turf and rubber pad base, the playing field serves those in wheelchairs and walkers, but can also be used year-round by others. The adaptive use of the field helps to breakdown barriers between athletes with different abilities as they can all enjoy the same facility. Likewise, the inclusive playground utilizes a similar surface, with fully ADA accessible playsets.
In addition to the unique park amenities, the park design also includes various creative stormwater quality treatment facilities which include dry stream beds, bio-retention ponds, infiltration trench and micro-pool extended detention pond. These water treatment facilities provide a treatment train interspersed throughout areas of the park to not only convey and treat runoff but also provide natural features within the park. Smith Planning Group took a hands on and creative approach to all aspects of the park including naming and designing the signage for Pawtriots Park, the dog park.
Why Should this Project be Recognized?
By providing the first facility of its type in Cherokee County, I believe this project makes an important contribution to the well-being of a special community in Cherokee County. In order to achieve this, the project required years of planning, neighborhood engagement, collaboration between stakeholders and engagement of a special stakeholder, Robert Strozier, who represented the Miracle League. Working with Shaw industries and Brock to develop a special application of their surfaces took months of research and testing of materials, in addition to bringing together Park officials and Miracle League representatives.
The stormwater system was designed to mimic the pre-existing natural watershed and provide multiple areas of runoff mitigation and infiltration. In addition to the 12 acres of preserved woods, several large oaks trees where field located by Smith Planning Group in order to save during construction, including a very large oak tree that is located just outside left field of Freedom Field, which provides a fantastic view from the batters box.
The project was constructed just under budget and included design considerations for park maintenance, specifically parts of the concession stand built to withstand tampering and vandalism. The Parks and Recreation Department staff was consulted to ensure the park design incorporated their maintenance specifications.
The special playsurfaces require different maintenance schedules and equipment than what is required for natural turf fields. Smith Planning Group consulted with Shaw Industries to learn the proper maintenance of the new fields in order to incorporate some of the equipment into the overall project contract and ensure associated costs were accounted for.
Patriots Park is a truly unique park that was constructed as a response to years of feedback from the community’s needs. It meets specific needs, in surprising and delightful ways. The level of collaboration, attention to detail, and creative problem solving required a significant effort from the Smith Planning Group Team.