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10-15-20 | Feature

A New Gem for an Old Mine

Maple Grove Central Park
by Tom Whitlock, Damon Farber

Maple Grove Central Park was developed into a signature community park in the heart of Maple Grove, Minnesota, 30 years after being envisioned in the city's comprehensive plan. Landscape Architecture firm Damon Farber led the design, creating what was once a 40-acre mining site into a destination community asset that supports the rapidly developing downtown and surrounding multi-family residential and mixed-use development.
This unique playground design by Landscape Structures is made up of mostly customized pieces including a tower play structure with stacked tunnel slides, hillside climbers and custom slide tunnels integrated into the landscape design.
The interactive fountain is a 2,100 sq. ft. plaza with 49 jet sprays and 18 arching sprays. Fountain water is recycled through a filtration system and the water is reused, just like in a swimming pool, and beautiful LED lights turn the fountain into a light show once the sun goes down.
Concrete steppingstones connect the Grand Lawn and sporting areas, crossing over a channel created as a bioswale for stormwater runoff. Large boulders and native plants fill the swale which drains to a large lake situated beside the playground.
The skating loop is an 810' long and 20' wide refrigerated ice-skating trail, the first of its kind in Minnesota. Throughout the winter, families come here to skate and enjoy holiday special events with indoor/outdoor amenities.
The playground consists of accessible, rubberized surface and some sand areas, seven play zones, a 24' climbing tower, four slides, a 120' long climbing wall and unique swings including a pendulum swing by Berliner Seilfabrik. The play area is situated amongst planting and boulders sculpted from concrete. Additionally, there are hillside climbers and slides that create a unique experience, and a tire swing and architectural net climber that look like playable art.
Resilient play surfacing was shaped into playful mounds that create opportunities for self-directed and innovative play.

Maple Grove is one of the fastest growing cities in Minnesota's Twin Cities Metropolitan area. As a former location of gravel mining operations, the city has undergone a massive transformation over the past several decades, as huge planning and construction efforts have reshaped the city and community.

Previous successful design work at Maple Grove's Civic Center, Arbor Lakes and Town Green developments by Landscape Architecture firm Damon Farber created a special opportunity to continue serving the growing city by developing the new Central Park to support the rapidly developing downtown.

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The first conceptual plans for the park were sketched by the Damon Farber team in 2008. From there, the process of designing Central Park included an extensive series of workshops with the Maple Grove Park Board, city government, and an involved public. Multiple concept plans and numerous programming options were studied and presented during public meetings, eventually resulting in a preferred schematic design for the park. Throughout this process Damon Farber listened to public comments and integrated public input into the design, and believe the final result is a far better and more successful park due to the active and vocal role of the community.

The design and construction effort required extensive collaboration across multiple disciplines including architects; civil, electrical, structural and mechanical engineers; and fountain design and ice sheet refrigeration consultants among others. Damon Farber Landscape Architects led the team, working together to ensure success in the design, development, and long-term functionality of the park. The collaboration resulted in an innovative and signature space, not simply a design.

Special consideration of soil quality and subgrade porosity was required on this project due to the site's former use as a gravel mine. The landscape was left with mining byproduct soil composed of silt and clay, causing the team to work carefully to design a complex system of subsurface drains to move moisture through the site. Decompaction operations were necessary and required for plant growth, while sand and other soil amendments were used to provide planting conditions conducive to long term development.

Today, Central Park comprises of 24 acres of lush green and hardscape space and 20 acres of open water reservoir. The park offers a wonderful variety of opportunities for park users of all ages with a variety of seasonal activities offered throughout the year. Central Park provides the residents of Maple Grove with ample space for large events in the five-acre grand lawn and active sporting activity space in the many sport courts and open lawns. The park also includes an ice trail, a warming house pavilion building, an interactive splash pad and fountain, a children's play area, formal gardens, a fire pit, an extensive trail system and prairie areas. The formal garden provides a beautiful setting for an outdoor summer or fall wedding. With a variety of activities, Central Park provides a place for everyone to stay active and refreshed throughout the year. The grand lawn has already hosted a women's triathlon with over 2,000 spectators and participants.

The park is popular and active, but it also highlights stormwater treatment and effective best management practices in two ways. The Grand Lawn drains into a bioswale filled with native prairie plants. The swale is designed to be attractive when wet or dry, with boulders running down the center of the channel and concrete steppingstones providing a safe and innovative crossing point. The swale drains to a large man-made lake, which provides a scenic backdrop to the playground area park, while providing stormwater detention and a visual amenity.

Central Park is an exciting place to be. It's a comfortable environment to meet friends. It's where the community comes together for fun, for large and small events, for exercise, or just to relax with the family. Central Park is a huge success and the envy of many neighboring communities. Maple Grove Central Park has become an attractive destination and a point of pride for its residents and will serve as an anchor and place of respite for the community for many years to come.

As seen in LASN magazine, October 2020.

Filed Under: PLAYGROUND, PARK, LANDSCAPE, DESIGN, LASN
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