Landscape Architecture by Clark Condon
Founders Park is a signature, 16-acre site that provides a centralized green space for the Woodlands Hills community in Texas and features a distinct connection to nature. The central park space is part of a larger, 112-acre park system connected by green space, trails and bike paths. The design objective aims to preserve and enhance the existing character of the site and transform it into an exceptional amenity that celebrates the natural topography and valuable ecological habitat, while also providing multiple levels of active and passive recreation.
An ephemeral stream divides the heavily wooded site giving the park a unique character with its meandering path and exploration opportunities. The natural amenities, including the stream, forest, and topography, became the inspiration for the park design, which reflects and complements the existing forms of the site. The periphery of the stream was protected by a buffer of trees and understory plants. The new design preserves the riparian corridor with minimal disturbance through most of the site. A half-acre pond was created to slow site runoff, alleviate erosion in the stream bed, forge opportunities for passive recreation, establish an additional ecological environment within the site, and allow sedimentation to settle, which in turn improves water quality prior to entering Stewarts Creek, a tributary of the west fork of the San Jacinto River.
Preservation and enhancement of the natural landform and forest was a cornerstone of the design. Utilizing an extensive tree survey and working with an arborist, amenities were carefully sited to save the healthiest and largest of the trees. A management program was also developed for the trees to be preserved. The playground, dog park, and pool were designed to take advantage of the existing trees and enhance the natural topography of the site. In total, the park design preserved forty-five percent of the existing vegetation. An additional twenty percent of the site was reforested, including a selective diversification of plant material to promote a healthy, flourishing ecosystem. The preserved forest sites, paired with the establishment of the reforestation plantings, created areas that are regenerative and do not require the typical maintenance associated with manicured landscapes, thus reducing long-term maintenance costs.
The fully integrated playground and sprayground also take their cues from the natural topography and character of the site. The sprayground is a stream-like feature that meanders its way through the playground. The stream originates in an upper plaza surrounded by boulders that provide a play experience and seating while retaining the adjacent earth. As the stream flows downhill along an aggregate and river rock embedded stream bed, it passes by rocks that are placed to show the cause and effect of water flow down to the lower basin where the water forms a shallow pool. The playground and play structures are nestled among the existing trees. In the center, a large plateau features a pavilion that offers scenic views across the site and includes exciting play elements that take advantage of the elevation changes.
As seen in LASN magazine, March 2020.