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04-19-22 | Feature

A New Texas Star

Tucked away in the neighborhoods of Leander, Texas, you will find the beautiful Lakewood Park and soon understand why this park has become a prime destination for residents and a regional attraction for out-of-town visitors.
by Landscape Architecture by Halff Associates

In the Austin, Texas, suburb of Leander, Halff Associates, Inc., designed a 100-acre area into Lakewood Park. A local developer donated 50 of the acres, in which a central pavilion was built that provides shade, seating and game tables, and serves as a hub for surrounding activities, whether at the playground, splash pad, skate park and other areas. Throughout the park are also bike racks, water fountains, a dog park, even a kayak launch.
Completed in September 2020 at $8.75 million, the project was funded through general obligation bonds, parkland dedication funds, the proceeds from a general obligation bond and a grant from Texas Parks & Wildlife. This playground was situated within existing trees, including oaks, to provide natural shade. Concrete curbing separates the wood-chip-filled, and poured-in-place playground surfaces from the seating areas. Landscape furnishings were specified from Landscape Forms. All landscaping is irrigated by rainwater collected into a cistern from the pavilion roof.
A large promenade connects the main pavilion to a 13-acre event lawn that hosts citywide events, concerts, festivals, and open play. The lighting, including these arched light posts and the lighted bollards was specified.
The Lakewood splash pad was designed to simulate the rivers that feed the park's lake. Boulders creating its walls were excavated from the project. The splash pad has water shooting from the stone walls and sides allowing water to collect in the shallow basin for additional splashing.
Several miles of trails, designed for all types of users and surfaced with concrete, decomposed granite and wood chips weave through the park. The trails connect to the adjacent neighborhoods allowing convenient access for everyone.
New Line Skateparks, a landscape architecture firm based in British Colombia, designed the poured-in-place concrete skatepark.

Leander is a booming suburb 10 miles outside of Austin that has grown from 26,000-plus residents in 2010 to more than 60,000 residents in 2020. With this recent influx in population, the city was looking for a space that could encompass multiple recreational needs. Thanks to an additional 50-acre donation by a local developer, Lakewood Park was destined to be Leander's premier park. The project, which was completed in September 2020 at $8.75 million, was funded through general obligation bonds, parkland dedication funds, general obligation bond proceeds and a Texas Parks & Wildlife grant.

This 100-acre park designed by Halff Associates, Inc., provides various features that attract a wide range of users. Basketball and volleyball courts provide opportunities for exercise, and a large splash pad entertains children on hot summer days.
Sitting in the center of the playground, skatepark and splash pad is a large pavilion and restroom facility. The pavilion is host to several picnic tables, grills and outdoor game tables. The pavilion's large roof collects rainwater into a cistern which is used to irrigate all landscape beds. The centralized location of the pavilion allows parents to relax in shaded seating while within view of children playing on the playground or splash pad.

The splash pad blends into the natural park setting by using boulders excavated from the project site to form the walls shaping the splash pad river basin. The splash pad is designed to represent the rivers that feed Lake Lakewood. The river contains splash features lining the river channel and the walkways on the side, filling the river with water leading to the bottom basin. The 120-foot-long river gently slopes down to a basin collecting all water and fills to a depth of 6" for kids to splash in. Water spills out of walls and from water cannons above, providing additional splash play for kids in the water basin. Delicate grading and natural edge concrete blend the edges into the existing landscape. Seating placed around the splash pad under existing trees provides several opportunities for parents to watch their kids from the comfort of a shaded spot.

Meander over to the playground and you'll see children engaging in multiple activities.

The play area enables children of all abilities to explore new opportunities and challenges. The focal point of the playground is a 25-foot tall tower in which children have to climb several levels of nets to reach the top. Swings and climbers for all ages dot the playground around the tower and shaded seating around the perimeter for parents.

A 3-acre dog park, one of the area's largest, gives dogs of all sizes opportunities to run around and interact with fellow paw pals. Walking trails and seating within the dog park give users an opportunity for exercise while their dogs play.

Several miles of trails weave throughout the park, allowing residents to maintain an active lifestyle and enjoy the
natural surroundings.

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"The design was laid out to preserve the dense tree population," said project manager Brandon Hay. "Our primary objective was to preserve the local ecosystem as much as possible. We spent much of the design phase working the layout to carefully fit the program elements around trees and site features."

Due to the sweltering Texas heat, it was imperative that designers
strategically incorporate shaded areas throughout the park.

A 13-acre Great Lawn, consisting of a half-mile loop trail, encircles the event lawn. This area is perfectly situated for big events such as the Leander Liberty Fest Fourth of July Celebration and the Leander Bluegrass Festival. Several food truck stations are positioned around Great Lawn and play areas for vending during large festivals.

The Great Lawn overlooks the beautiful Lake Lakewood. Fishing nodes, picnic pavilions, trails and a kayak launch facility line the lake. A self-service kayak launch enables patrons to rent two-person kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, life jackets and oars through Austin-based vendor Paddle EZ. Just like renting an electric scooter or bike, Paddle EZ offers an easy solution to rent kayak equipment via a self-service
mobile device.

Kayakers also have the option to drop off their equipment at the launch site.
Lake Lakewood has been a fisherman's haven for many years. It's a key element to the park, and the design team wanted to ensure it remained a fishing paradise for years to come.

Halff and the city of Leander strategically put together a plan to incorporate fishing into the park. This resulted in a grant issued by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, giving Lake Lakewood an ample amount of fish that are stocked regularly by the agency.

"During construction, we were constantly having to kick out fishermen because this had become a great spot for fishing," said Hay. "It was a hidden gem that spread by word-of-mouth. Now, we offer the opportunity for fishermen, local and regional alike, to come out and enjoy the great fishing the lake has to offer."
A circular pier built into the park allows fishermen to venture out and set up their reels for the day. The main objective was to extend the pier deep enough into the lake to allow for a prime fishing locale. Several banks throughout the area are also excellent spots to fish.

Challenges abounded in the early design of the project. The entire site sat within a 100-year floodplain, thus resulting in logistical challenges that needed to be addressed. The Halff design team made concerted efforts to ensure the park could sustain flood impacts without interfering with nearby residential properties.
Dense vegetation and trees created an access challenge as there were limited points inside and outside the property. Trees that were removed in the initial process were recycled and used throughout the park, preserving the natural ambiance of the area.

"Lakewood Park is a hidden gem in Leander," noted park patron Elena Ladd. "This park has a lovely lake with a fantastic fishing pier and picnic areas, a dog park, skate park, basketball court, beach volleyball, kayak rental and splash park. Excellent wide concrete trails for bicycles and strollers. I was pleased to find this relaxing area in Leander."
Lakewood Park is situated along with a planned regional trail system, which will eventually connect the park to surrounding cities and parks. Lakewood Park will continue to grow in the years to come. Additional phases will bring trails, courts and a performance stage for large events.

TEAM LIST:
Mark Tummons
Director of Parks and Recreation, City of Leander
Brandon Hay, PLA, ASLA, CLARB
Project Manager, Halff Associates, Inc.
Landscape Furnishings - Landscape Forms
Playground Equipment - We-Build-Fun
Kayak launch - Paddleez
Skatepark - New Line Skateparks

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