By: Victoria K. Sicaras
Name: Ambassador Edward L. Romero Park
Client: Bernalillo County (N.M.) Parks and Recreation Department
AEC firm: Weston Solutions Inc.
Cost: $892,000 (Phase I)
Project delivery method: Design-bid-build
Completed: May 2009
In 2003, Senior Park Planner Clay Campbell struck a deal with the University of New Mexico's Landscape Architecture Program: have graduate students prepare preliminary designs for a new park in Albuquerque. The agreement allowed the county to stretch limited financial resources while giving students valuable experience in learning how far $2,500 can go.
The result: Four acres of recreation space in an area where parks are scarce. Now residents have convenient access to playgrounds, a climbing wall, walking paths, a picnic area, and connections to a local bicycle path.
The space also offered an opportunity to smooth hard feelings between residents of an established subdivision and those of a newer development that was built on farmland. By hosting informal meetings to gather feedback, the students cultivated a sense of community between residents of both subdivisions, which surround the park.
“The students brought tremendous creativity to the project and were able to help me advance it,” says Campbell.
Seven graduate students, grouped into three teams, prepared three master plan concepts based on public input. A team from Weston Solutions Inc. (formerly Resource Technology Inc.) combined common threads and complementary patterns from the three plans into a single design that incorporates elements that work best together.
To ensure a 100-year storm event wouldn't drain into existing stormwater facilities that are already overtaxed, the developer of the newer subdivision was required to dig a retention pond on the park site that eventually became a weed-infested eyesore. Incorporating community feedback gathered by the students — and key to the aesthetics of the park — Weston designed a grading plan that spread water around the site and eliminated the need for a fence around the pond. Runoff entering the site through numerous drainage easements around the park's perimeter is channeled into shallow bio-swales and diffused across the park to irrigate native and xeric plantings as well as low-water-use hybrid turf. Comprised of a “reservoir” blend of gravel, compost, and native soils, the swales are capped with stepping stone-like pieces of broken concrete slabs that provide a path throughout the park.
Recycled concrete from streetscape and sidewalk replacement projects also controls erosion. To reduce runoff generated within the park, porous concrete — a first for Albuquerque — was used to pave the parking lot. The entry plaza is paved with permeable bricks.
A second phase of construction is under way to add basketball and sand volleyball courts as well as another picnic area and walking paths. It will cost the county $580,000 and is expected to be completed by September.