Dowdy Park – vision to reality

Nags Head prepares for design of playground phase

The effort to transform the former Dowdy Amusement Park from an empty five-acre lot into a vibrant “community center park” picked up steam last week as the town of Nags Head put out a call for landscape architects to help design the $1.2 million “Phase I” of the park plan.


      “We’re looking to move forward with a phased development plan,” said Deputy Town Manager Andy Garman, who is overseeing the project. “We’re going to get ready to start the actual design process to develop the site.”

      There are a number of key dates and deadlines to be met along the way and, if all goes according to plan, the public could be using the new park by the end of this year.

      “We see this as more of a neighborhood park with neighborhood scale events,” Garman stated. “People can walk to it…It really is sort of a community center park. I think this will be the first of its kind in the town.”

      As currently envisioned, the Phase I project includes: an event plaza that could house something like a craft fair or a farmer’s market; a pavilion for smaller scale concerts; fitness stations; walking trails; a parking lot for about 40 cars; a multi-use turf area; and, of key importance, an inclusive playground component. (Later phases could possibly include such amenities as a bocce lawn, a multi-use court and a multi-use playing field.)

      The momentum for Phase I picked up dramatically when Trillium Health Resources, the governmental agency that manages mental health and other services in eastern North Carolina, agreed to provide a $750,000 grant — a development the town had not anticipated. Another $250,000 toward the project is coming from the Dare County Tourism Board, and the town plans on using about $150,000 from its capital reserve fund for parks and paths.

      “The Trillium thing just kind of came up,” Garman noted. “We got approached by them because they were aware we were developing a park, so they thought it would be a good idea to do an inclusive playground.”

      Trillium’s requirement for an all-inclusive playground is intended “to address the special needs population,” he added. “They’ll be looking at if a person’s in a wheelchair, has a specific sensory deficit, autism….The idea is that [the playground] doesn’t exclude anybody from its use.”

      Garman explained that the idea is not to create “formal playground areas,” but instead to have “play components scattered throughout that would sort of blend into the facility…In some cases, you might have sculptures or artistic features that could also serve as a play feature.”

      The “Request for Qualifications” soliciting landscape architects went out from the town on Jan. 12, with a deadline to respond of Feb. 5. Garman said the town will then move quickly to select the most qualified firm and “negotiate the scope of services and cost…Once we get them on board, we’ll probably have seventy-five days to get this draft design of the playground done to submit to Trillium.”

      The goal is to complete the design of the playground facility by April 30, have a contractor ready to start construction “in the July time frame” and finish the construction of the playground elements by Nov. 30. 

      Phase I “will set the stage for everything to come,” Garman noted.  “So we want to get this phase right.”

      After Phase I is complete, there are a number of questions to be resolved going forward, including funding and the ultimate composition of the facility. “Even beyond a Phase Two or a Phase Three…I could see that a lot of the park would continue to evolve,” said Garman. “I think that’s what makes this park unique.”

source: Mark Jurkowitz, Outer Banks Sentinel


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