Happy New Year! We’re happy to report our progress on planning a new playground. Over the past year, the Washington Park Conservancy has convened a committee including fifteen individuals representing local neighborhood associations and community based organizations located around or who make use of Washington Park.
Through these discussions, the committee determined the following goals for a new playground in Washington Park:
- Create a destination playground for users outside the city AND an engaging playscape to engage Albany residents who utilize the park more regularly
- Honor the historical nature of the park and its landscape
- Offer a unique play opportunity that is different from the play structures in Albany’s neighborhood pocket parks
- Address multi-generational use of the park
- Offer truly accessible and engaging play opportunities for park users of all abilities
- Serve as a gateway to enjoying the park for families, by way of programming, learning opportunities, and opportunities for park users to build a sense of ownership of the playscape.
2020 Project Milestones
- APRIL: Washington Park Conservancy issued an RFP for the concept design phase of the playground rebuild project.
- JUNE: Trowbridge, Wolf & Michaels Landscape Architects (TWMLA), in partnership with Rusty Keeler of Earthplay, both based in Ithaca, NY, were selected as consultants for the project.
- SEPTEMBER: an initial kickoff meeting was held (via Zoom) with the consultants and the Playground Committee.
- NOVEMBER: Consultants had a walkthrough meeting with Conservancy board members in the Park. WPC received notification from the City of Albany that they have earmarked $135,000 in capital funds for the playground
As we begin 2021, WPC and the consultants are working on the community engagement plan, which will unfold over the coming months. Although personal interactions in the context of Covid-19 are challenging, WPC and TWMLA are committed to a comprehensive community engagement strategy to ensure an inclusive and transparent planning process that represents our diverse communities and stakeholders. To this end, the Committee has identified the following priorities to guide our decision-making and activities as the process unfolds:
- Engaging the diverse current users of the park in our concept design planning, with focused attention on equity issues and inclusivity across socioeconomic, cultural, racial, and geographic groups within the city of Albany.
- Managing a flexible timeline to accommodate changing health guidelines due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Consideration of the varying levels of access to digital platforms and possible alternatives to address the “digital divide” in our community
- Establishing partnerships with stakeholder organizations early in the design process, including but not limited to: Albany Public Library, Albany City School District, Boys & Girls Club, Girls, Inc., PAL, YMCA, Radix Center, Youth FX, South End Children’s Cafe, and more.
- Engaging youth in the design process, through activities in schools, after-school programs, recreation programs, and the public library. TWMLA will generate materials that educate on a broad range of playscapes and engage children and young adults in the planning process.
As activity on the playground accelerates over the coming months, we will post regular updates, and expand the Playground page of the website to include engaging visuals, a survey, and other opportunities for community feedback. So please check back often!