***here is a very crude draft. I have not read it all the way through yet and am late for dinner so I am getting the hell out of here. The red parts are blatently pladgerized and will need reworking. If y'all want to comment it will make Justin's second drafring of this thing much easier.****
ECOTONE is a multi-phase design for Gus Garcia Park that focuses on the integration of the community, the Gus Garcia Recreational Center, and the site through an understanding of natural systems and processes. An ecotone by definition is the point of intersection between two ecological communities, or ecosystems. In an abstract sense, the purpose of our plan is to create a harmonious relationship between the “urban ecosystems” and the “natural ecosystem” present on the site. The design process for ECOTONE began by defining both the natural qualities of the park and the values we would subscribe to as park planners.
Through a rigorous examination of the site and breakdown of the programmatic requirements we decided the most logical way to organize the park was in terms of ecosystems. The site currently has a variety of outstanding ecological communities, among these a river, a forest, and native grasslands. The program calls for the additional elements that comprise mostly of humans and their entourage (i.e. Recreation Center with parking, dogrun, sports fields, etc) that could be classified as “urban ecosystems.” We are suggesting the inclusion of several tertiary elements that act as a unifying element between these natural and urban elements which include a community garden, pedestrian street, and orchard.
Our strategy for planning the park is centered around the notion of choice. As a body of sustainability-minded design professionals we feel it is our task to locate the programmatic elements of immediate importance and in the process strengthen the natural elements of the site. We do not, however, feel it is in the best interest of the park to look too far in advance. Instead, we must adopt a way of thinking about the park that accepts unpredictability, coincidence and the accidental; that delights in diversity, multiplicity and contrast; that embraces change and the exercise of individual choice.
The first phase the park’s development is the most crucial and will set the tone for all activity to follow. The goal is to create an environment that will allow visitors to understand diversity of the site and observe the natural cycles at work. A system of hike and bike trails will statically laid out along the parks ecotones, or boundaries between two ecosystems. These transitional zones can be dramatic (i.e. the shore of a river) or gradual (i.e. a grassland transitioning into an orchard) and the design of the trail will be calibrated to the nature of the ecotone. The most prominent of these trails widens to form a pedestrian street which leads from Fiskville Cemetery Road, along the recreation center, to the center of the site where it empties into a courtyard. This courtyard is modeled after traditional Spanish city centers, which create a lush gathering space in the center of a dense urban environment. Other critical elements, such as shaded gathering spaces, will now be built in relationship to the pedestrian street and the central court.
Once the trails are in place phase two shifts the focus to strengthening the individual ecosystems. Some basic efforts include clearing garbage and other debris from the forest and the planting of grass and other vegetation in those parts of the site disturbed by the construction of the recreation center. A greater degree of energy must be invested in the creation of new ecosystems that will solidify the relationship between the natural and manmade aspects of the site. Along the river that flows through the site we are propose creating of a series of small retention ponds, each of which is stocked with organisms that naturally cleanse the water from the pollutants. The rich soil harvested from the creation of these ponds will be relocated to the eastern edge of the site and developed into a community garden. An orchard consisting of a variety of species will be planted in tandem with the construction of the garden. Now that the ecosystems are in place great care must taken to help them establish, but with time and care the site will become strong and robust. In phase three we have realized a natural environment that is poised to embrace the change and the community is sufficiently familiar with the site to make informed decisions.
If sustainability is going to be adopted as a sincere objective, we have to plan and build not only in closer correspondence with nature, but in recognition of the process of life itself. We embrace the idea that change is the only constant and suggest that with the design of this park we begin a cycle that acknowledges this reality.