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Walk in the park: Engineering, community, outreach

Rendering of amphitheater that would be part of the new park in Quakertown. The amphitheater would host a variety of performing arts.
Rendering of amphitheater that would be part of the new park in Quakertown. The amphitheater would host a variety of performing arts.

Who doesn’t like to take a walk in the park?

Our region is filled with great community parks, many of which have existed for decades.

If you’ve never seen a park being built, you might be inclined to think that doing so is almost as simple as taking a walk in one.

After all, a park is just a piece of land, a paved trail, maybe a public restroom and a few trees, right? It doesn’t need to be professionally engineered, does it?

Well not only does it need engineering, it needs community involvement.

The volunteer Quakertown Park Project committee has been working with the borough of Quakertown since 2007 to build a park on the site of the former Krupp Foundry at Fourth and Mill streets. The park celebrated its groundbreaking in October 2013 and anticipates completion in 2015.

During the past decade, it has taken a considerable amount of teamwork for everything from engineering the design to public outreach and fundraising to build the park.

The 12-acre passive recreation community park, within a few blocks of the central business district of Quakertown, will connect Quakertown Memorial Park and the sports complex, the James A. Michener Branch of the Bucks County Library and the Quakertown Community Pool.

It will feature walking and biking trails; an amphitheater; concession stand; gazebo; open areas for picnicking, playing and relaxing; flower meadows; a water feature or pond with fountain; and restrooms, among other amenities.

The engineering and technical design tasks that produced the final park development plan and construction drawings include:

• Ensuring that the soils are environmentally safe. The Krupp Foundry site was a brownfield site that required cleanup and remediation to meet state Department of Environmental Protection standards.

• Designing features that incorporate required stormwater management; a pond with a fountain will capture and release rainfall.

• Designing an amphitheater to meet structural safety standards as well as functionality for a variety of performing arts.

• Specifying trails that meet the American Disabilities Act design guide for slopes and widths to enable wheelchair usage and a range of walking capabilities while also allowing for emergency vehicle access.

• Providing public restrooms with the necessary water supply and wastewater utilities.

• Designing a lighting system that provides the required lighting for the safety and visibility of parking areas, as well as electrical power sources in the park for use during community events.

• Landscaping the park with the types of trees and meadows that are rugged enough for an urban setting, low in maintenance and add beauty.

• Preparing the plans with layout of all the features for construction and use by the public for years into the future.

Once the plan for the park was in place, the volunteer committee established naming opportunities which donors could take advantage of to show their support financially. Opportunities include naming the park, amphitheater, food court, gazebo and more.

For the past several months, the committee members have been identifying and approaching local businesses to obtain their financial commitment of the park.

The park committee, along with the borough, also identified several grant opportunities and assembled applications to help generate funds for construction.

The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Community Conservation Partnerships Program awarded the project a $250,000 grant. And the state Department of Community & Economic Development awarded the project a $225,000 grant from funds that were part of the $28.6 million made available over the past two years to fund six Marcellus legacy fund programs administered by the Commonwealth Financing Authority.

The Bucks County Municipal Open Space Program also provided $332,600 in grant money.

These grants, combined with the funds already raised for the project through other grants, sponsorships and donations, equal more than half of the $2 million cost to build the park.

The committee also continues to work on outreach to the community to make residents aware of the park and to gain their support for it. A website for the park project has been created (www.quakertownparkproject.org) as well as a Facebook fan page (www.facebook.com/quakertownparkproject).

Also, mailings have been sent to area residents and media, and an information booth was set up at several community events.

I am proud to be a member of the Quakertown Park Project committee and am excited for the park’s construction and development in the year ahead.

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