Project: Development of a conceptual design for the Vidin riverfront park
C a s e S t u d y
Development of a conceptual design for the Vidin riverfront park
Under the Bulgarian Technical Twinning Program, the municipality of Vidin and the city of West Carrollton, Ohio, worked together to develop a conceptual design for the Vidin Riverfront Park. The Riverfront Park is located on an area of 147 decares next to Vidin's downtown area and along the Danube River.
The teams' immediate goals were to provide planning, design, and management tools aimed at improving the park's aesthetics, functionality, and experience to make it an enjoyable place for future generations. The West Carrollton and Vidin teams tried to achieve these goals by developing a conceptual design for the Riverfront Park. The design provides a development strategy for the next 5 to 10 years, flexibility in making changes, a systematic approach to problem solving, and a framework for the development of annual budgets. We will revise and amend the conceptual design on a regular basis and will use it in making decisions about park development. This project design process also serves as a model for developing conceptual designs for other municipal recreational properties.
The Riverfront Park has the potential to become the center of leisure and entertainment in Vidin. At present, the park is deteriorated due to a lack of funding for maintenance and improvement during the last 11 years. The park does not currently meet the needs of the majority of the citizens. We needed to develop a plan for renovation with technical assis tance from the West Carrollton experts and input from Vidin citizens.
To implement this project, we assembled a team of volunteers with expertise in parks and recreation administration, landscape architecture, urban planning, and horticulture. Members of the team have worked in both local government and the private sector. The Vidin team was comprised of Deputy Mayor Stefan Sirakov, engineers Borislav Borisov and Violeta Georgieva and architect Galya Antova. West Carrollton team members were Rick Bolton, Director of Parks & Recreation in West Carrollton; Chris Papakirk, City Planner of Beavercreek, Ohio; Mark Sexton, President, Groundworks, Inc.; and Denise Bolton, Recreation Administrator. First the team gathered information to assist in project implementation. During visits to West Carrollton, the Vidin teams met with representatives from Five Rivers Metroparks, Hamilton County Parks, and the Dayton and Montgomery Convention and Visitors Bureau. They also visited many waterfront parks in West Carrollton, Miami Township, Dayton, Cincinnati, and Hamilton County, which gave them a broad picture of park development in the United States.
To develop a conceptual design for Riverfront Park, we began by conducting a site inventory and site analysis of the existing park including plants, equipment, walks, monuments and sculptures, historic features, infrastructure, and current public uses. Vidin staff performed the inventory and provided a park map. The map showed locations and names of key features of the entire park. During the late May - early June 2001 visit to Vidin, West Carrollton team members shot many photos and videos in the park, which the entire West Carrollton team used to begin the conceptual design process. The Vidin staff filmed additional video footage and mailed it to West Carrollton.
We formed a citizen committee in Vidin, comprised of NGO representatives; experts in horti culture, landscape design, and construction; and key community players. During the late May-early June 2001 visit to Vidin, members of the West Carrollton team met with this group of Vidin citizens to discuss current uses of the park, their impressions of the park, and changes that they would like to see. We presented the first draft conceptual plan to this group. The group made several suggestions for changes and additions, which we reviewed for inclusion in the final design.
Next, we designed a survey to solicit information from Vidin citizens about user demo graphics, current use of the park, and suggestions for future use. The West Carrollton team provided a sample survey, which we used during telephone and personal contacts. The Vidin team provided a summary of the survey results to the West Carrollton team.
The Vidin and West Carrollton teams then toured the park and agreed on five different areas within the park for which to provide detailed conceptual designs. The areas are:
n Grande Entrance - is the primary access to the park from the municipal square. The design recommends a visual landmark, sculpture garden, river access, trees, bench swings, and lights.
n Art Gallery - addresses access from the park and new landscaping.
n Scenic Overlook - the design recommends new landscape, seating, and other amenities to complement the 180 view of the Danube River.
n Monument of Freedom - addresses the long boulevard leading to the monument, including additions of curbing, flower beds, and repositioning of benches and light posts.
n West Carrollton Corner - adds elements typical to parks in the United States, such as an interactive water feature, picnic shelter, playground, amphitheater, cafй with an area for public activities, and a donor walk. The donor walk features pavement stones that can be purchased and custom engraved to honor or recognize family members or others.
After agreeing on the above areas, we prepared the draft conceptual plan and presented the plan to the Vidin staff and to the citizen committee. We followed a planning and design process to develop the conceptual plan, which had the following elements:
The final conceptual design should:
n Provide development strategies for the next 5-10 years.
n Be reviewed and updated on a regular basis.
n Be flexible when changes and updates become necessary.
n Provide a framework to plan annual budgets.
The design process should consider that:
n Parks are the most important public spaces in communities because many people use them for many purposes.
n Parks are more than just green spaces and attractive landscaping; they create functional spaces and memorable experiences.
n Parks are complex, living organisms that evolve over the years and must be maintained properly.
The design process required that we review the goals of the technical twinning program and that we consider the information collected from Vidin citizens, the citizen survey, Vidin staff, and team members' personal observations.
The park design includes the following features:
n Offers many activities for all people
n Is easily accessible by all citizens
n Is located along the Danube River
n Has many large, mature shade trees
n Has many historical landmarks such as Baba Vida Castle, Turkish Post Office, Telegraph Office, Monument of Freedom, the Mosque, and the Library.
n Has adjacent buildings such as the Theater and the Art Gallery, which add to the visual and cultural quality.
The last step of the project was to complete the final conceptual design. After the review of the draft conceptual design by Vidin staff and citizens, we made several changes and incorporated several suggestions. We presented the final conceptual design to the Vidin staff and citizens during the West Carrollton team's May 2002 visit to Vidin.
Besides completing the park's conceptual design, another facet of the project was to provide input in designing a volunteer involvement process. During the Vidin staff's visit to West Carrollton in July 2001, the partners discussed use of volunteers. Topics covered included:
n Boards and Commissions: Citizens are appointed by local government to serve as volunteers on various boards and commissions. The boards advise local government on various topics. The West Carrollton City Beautiful Commission and Recreation Board were discussed in detail.
n Youth: Many examples of youth volunteers in the parks were discussed. Groups from local schools and scout troops are good sources of youth volunteers.
n Adopt-A-Park: This program uses both youth and adult groups who agree to provide a volunteer service in a park. The service can involve picking up litter, planting a flowerbed, raising funds for playground equipment, or any other agreed-upon idea.
n Volunteers in Parks: Many park departments use volunteers to conduct activities, lead programs, and raise funds for park improvements. Five Rivers Metroparks, a regional park system, presented a review of its volunteer program.
n Conceptual design development is complete.
n Work design development for West Carrollton Corner will be complete by August 2002.
n Implementation of work designs is partially complete; the West Carrollton Corner is expected to be complete by August 2002.
Solutions Overview and Benefits
n We developed conceptual solutions for the renovation of individual park areas and implemented some of the solutions.
n We encouraged citizen participation and attention. Citizens, NGOs, and municipal departments were all involved in park development and preservation.
n The park's vision was improved. The new vision focuses on establishing the park as a preferred place for recreation.
n The project has contributed to the park's aesthetic experience and future functionality.
n The project has a replication effect, as we can apply the approach and the solutions developed to other green areas in the city.
n Changes in the park have long-term effects that future generations will appreciate.
n The solutions proposed can be implemented quickly.
n The process of learning from the partners' experience and applying it improved the knowledge and skills of those involved in the project.
n The project improved the image of the municipality as park owner.
n The project established a good practice of interaction between the municipal government and citizens in making community development decisions.
n The project provided an opportunity to promote the park by means of the promotional materials developed under the project.
The technical twinning partnership between Vidin and West Carrollton has been a very successful relationship. By working together we developed the final conceptual design for the Riverfront Park. Some of the design ideas have already been implemented; for example, we have purchased and installed the Grande Entrance landmark, benches, and lights.
The volunteer program in Vidin has also been established. Two schools have adopted some park property and have agreed to perform various tasks.
We have started the citizen involvement process by forming the citizen review committee for the park design and by conducting the park users survey. These concepts can be used in many other public improvement projects.
The partnership did not end at the conclusion of this project. Some members of the West Carrollton team will return to Vidin to see the many park improvements, which will be accomplished in the future.