A Community Gathering Place Is Reborn
DuBois Park is a mature residential neighborhood filled with single-family homes that date between the 1950s and 1970s. The neighborhood was named for the 3.5 acre DuBois Park that is an integral part of the community. The City of Vancouver Parks and Recreation Department, as part of its Master Plan, identified the need to renovate the park for safer and better use by the residents. In early 2019, the City contracted with Otak to participate in the public engagement sessions to gain insight into priorities for the residents and then to design the park, and oversee construction.
David Haynes took on the dual role of landscape architect and project manager and said while he worked closely with the project manager for the City, Otak was given free rein for the design. “We were very cognizant that the ideas we developed needed to work with the City’s long-term maintenance capabilities,” David said.
Otak and the City hosted two public meetings as open houses at the park site. The City and Otak’s project managers co-led the events with the City discussing background processes and funding sources, while David introduced design concepts and implementation. The first meeting was to gather ideas from the residents and the second was to show them the design concepts that came out of the meeting. “We developed options of how the park could be laid out and talked about the pros and cons of each. Residents chose to mix and match different aspects that they were shown and we put those results into a final plan,” David said.
David added that Otak was committed to addressing comments and concerns, which, in one case, resulted in setting the basketball court a couple of feet below the surrounding grade to help attenuate the noise of bouncing basketballs.
In the final version, Otak designed an improved playground, a loop trail around the perimeter of the park, an irrigation system to feed the new lawn areas, and a trellis as a gateway attraction. One distinctive feature is an embankment around the swingsets consisting of large boulders that kids can climb over. “The City project manager relied on us to select and place boulders. He was uncertain about how it would come together but was pleased with the result,” David said.
The Otak team has a fondness for park projects because they are viewed as foundational to a strong community and allow for plenty of creativity that a design team relishes. “That’s what planning and design are about—creating neighborhoods that people enjoy living in. Park projects are powerful in creating a sense of community,” David reflected.
The park had a soft opening in December 2020 and there are plans for an official ribbon-cutting this spring.