Dune Fencing: Practical and Beachy

Protected plantings_IMG_2844
Protective dune fencing at Odlin Park

by Mike Perfetti, Senior Associate, Landscape Architect

One challenge we face on many public park projects is protecting newly installed plants from being trampled by park users.  (Another challenge is preventing plants from being devoured by wildlife!)  Recently we worked with Davido Consulting Group at San Juan County’s Odlin Park to design renovations to an extremely popular waterfront campground.

Odlin Park - Rendered plan
The design relocates the campground road away from the beach and creates walk-in campsites in areas that were once pull-in (car) sites.

Previously, the beach sites were strung together, tents, and portable shelters packed in against one another.  Cars parked in all sorts of configurations within the sites.  Though patches of dune grass prevailed around user trails, the grass was unable to expand, limited by the expansive human footprint.

Walk in site_IMG_2814

With the renovations, we used native shoreline plants to create more privacy between the beach sites.  The restored vegetation on the shoreline also enhances habitat and reduces erosion.  The beach sites don’t have irrigation and budget was an issue during design, so it was important to take a restoration approach, using smaller plant material.

It will take some time for the smaller plants to become established and substantial enough to achieve their desired effect.  In anticipation of this time lag, we designed a pattern of dune fencing to protect the plants and delineate use zones.  After one jam-packed camping season and record-breaking heat, the shoreline planting areas are doing well.

kayakers_Odlin Park - Rendered plan

Shore pines, Nootka Rose and Dune grass will eventually form thickets of semi-shady beach plantings, their scent mixing with the salt air and helping to break the wind as campers stoke the beach fires.


In the meantime, the dune fencing will provide some of that function, creating an aura that is distinctly beachy, a welcome improvement from the cluster of vehicles and the unabated camp stuff that used to sprawl across the shoreline at Odlin Park.


Culturally Sensitive Design

by Jim Brennan

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Taiwan’s scenic east coast again and present at a symposium.  I have been involved with tourism planning for the East Coast Tourism Bureau for the past 15 years and previously worked on development of the Green Island Master Plan.

The S.E. Coast of Taiwan is experiencing increased visitation of tourists from mainland China.  The rapid growth in tourism and resulting encroachments on tribal lands and traditional use areas is creating negative impacts to Taiwan’s aboriginal community.  At the symposium, I presented concepts for culturally sensitive design and discussed processes to involve the native community.  I worked with Joe Lee of ECG International, a partner firm, to explore and present case study projects that successfully express cultural identity.

As the first discussion, the symposium served as a starting point for the long-term goal, which is to find common ground that leads to mutually beneficial solutions for the government, tribes, and developers.

Jim and Joe Lee.
Jim and Joe Lee.

There will be lots of hard work to get to a win / win outcome.  The director of the East Coast Scenic Area was impressed with the progress made during the meeting.  We expect that the plan resulting from this process will protect tribal interests and improve Taiwan’s scenic east coast for all visitors.


Facilities and Parks Spotlight Award

Don Morse Park_20130726_Phase 1 Post Construction_0136

The Washington Recreation & Park Association (WRPA) recently awarded Don Morse Park in Chelan a Facilities and Parks Spotlight Award.

“Spotlight Awards highlight excellence and achievements in the field of parks and recreation by honoring the amazing efforts of public agencies.  Facilities & Parks Awards recognize the highest standards in design, development and renovation of park and recreation areas.” – WRPA

J.A. Brennan congratulates the City of Chelan and Parks and Recreation Director Charles Sablan.  We are proud to have helped Chelan restore its premier waterfront park and swimming beach.

J.A. Brennan served as prime consultant.  The design team included Reid Middleton, Coast & Harbor Engineering, The Watershed Company, SWCA, Budinger & Associates, Shannon & Wilson, Cascade Interpretive Design, Sparling, Erlandsen Inc., and Nelson Geotechnical Consultants.

For more information: http://bit.ly/1prObAV


Fuzhou Pavilion during the moon festival at Tacoma Chinese Reconciliation Park, © J.A. Brennan Associates

Good civic spaces provide communities with vital places for congregation and celebration and can augment, if not define, the spirit of a neighborhood and city. Part of the design process for public spaces involves pinpointing and expressing significant and unique character traits and culture in the resulting forms. Through creative collaboration with the community, designers can assist groups in interpreting their identity and the specific needs for public spaces. As landscape architects we synthesize our physical understanding of a site and its history with our creative ideas to establish placemaking features into a space.

Eureka Focal Point_20091019_2009-10-19_0056
Focal point at the end of F Street in Eureka, California, © J.A. Brennan

Over the next several weeks the JABLOG will explore processes and design techniques that invigorate civic life and articulate a neighborhood’s character within the public realm. We will discuss how history, people, landscape interpretation, art, and architecture are translated through the design process to create bold or subtle statements about a community’s identity.


A component of developing successful civic spaces includes establishing placemaking features and/or iconic focal points in collaboration with the people who use the space and who it represents. This is a process of exploring a community’s understanding of itself.

Inherent in designing is the task of finding common ground and working towards a common purpose, distilling a vision from many voices. An inclusive public process brings people together to express and hear diverse ideas, bonding the participants.

How does it happen?

Understanding -> Vision -> Design


Artist Smoker Marchand's installation at Beebe Spring's Natural Area, © J.A. Brennan
Artist Smoker Marchand’s installation at Beebe Spring’s Natural Area, © J.A. Brennan

The importance and history of a site are known to those around it.  As designers we work with the public to understand and articulate a community’s core values and its culture. Some have a clear vision of how to express their identity. Others look to the landscape architect to facilitate the process of synthesizing the ingredients they have gathered to make a bold statement. Ultimately, good placemaking expresses the core of a community in the design.


The designer distills what is learned about the site and uses forms, materials, colors, and natural elements to design placemaking features.

Bitter Lake Reservoir Open Space Expanding Waterdrop Plaza
Bitter Lake Reservoir Open Space’s Expanding Water Drop Plaza, © J.A. Brennan

There is the satisfying moment of finding the perfect expression of a place.

Will it be…

  • A gateway marker?
  • A view?
  • A pattern in the wall?
  • A signature structure?
  • A fountain?
  • A sculpture?
  • A story told in the landscape?

Iconic placemaking elements ultimately enhance gathering places, enrich relationships with the landscape, and improve wayfinding and navigation within the geographic setting.

A good process results in an iconic placemaking element and spirit of place that is embraced by the community.


Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) Accessibility Guidelines for Outdoor Developed Areas, Final Rule

by Dan Shaw

The ABA Accessibility Guidelines for Outdoor Developed Areas final rule went into effect on November 25. Anyone involved in outdoor accessibility issues in a federal setting will likely be affected by the final rule.

Changes in materials need careful consideration, (Juanita Beach Park, Kirkland, WA)
Changes in materials need careful consideration, (Juanita Beach Park, Kirkland, WA)

Several of us at the office recently participated in a webinar on these updates. The ABA Accessibility Guidelines provide technical requirements to ensure projects on federal lands (or built by federal agencies) are accessible to people with disabilities. In our day-to-day work we often choose to follow ABA standards (even on non-federal projects) because they provide effective, reasonable, and specific design guidelines for accessible outdoor facilities including trails, beach access, camping sites, etc.

ADA accessibility works with crushed surfaces but has its challenges. (Beebe Springs Natural Area, near Chelan, WA)
ADA accessibility works with crushed surfaces but has its challenges. (Beebe Springs Natural Area, near Chelan, WA)

ABA guidelines may also serve as the basis for ADA updates, potentially going into effect as early as Spring of 2014 depending on how negotiations go with rule-makers. We anticipate that even more municipalities will start to adopt ABA guidelines on a project-by-project basis.

An accessible viewpoint and bench (Beebe Springs Natural Area, near Chelan, WA)
An accessible viewpoint and bench (Beebe Springs Natural Area, near Chelan, WA)

The webinar format made it easy for us to learn about these updates- we simply gathered in our conference room and listened in, which made it possible for us to discuss what we were learning with each other and how these guidelines will shape future projects. 

A serpentine path often reduces the gradient, improving accessibility (Don Morse Park, Chelan)
A serpentine path often reduces the gradient, improving accessibility (Don Morse Park, Chelan, WA)

The new guidelines are a great way to enhance accessibility for all.

The full report is available at this link.  The ABA PowerPoint show may be found here.

Recreating Historically Significant Public Spaces

Old Town Dock after Re-creation
Before restoration, the dock was unsafe and closed to the public.

by Mike Perfetti

Public parks and outdoor civic spaces provide many day-to-day and long-term civic and environmental functions.  Park creation and re-creation require coordination and collaboration between designers and stakeholders in order to create a design that reflects the desires, trends, and economics of a community at a specific point in time.  As well, the design must respect the past while responding to perceived environmental factors.  Communities inevitably change and as time grinds away we are tasked with recreating the place.  If we do it right, the place will be renewed and become beloved in new ways.

Understanding and Appreciating the Past

Many parks are rich with histories treasured by their communities.  These stories are vital to a community’s identity.

Like buildings, outdoor public spaces can be historic, and are often guarded by the people who love them.  For landscape architects, it’s important to engage with the community and project stakeholders and to demonstrate an understanding and appreciation of the past.  We must also demonstrate the ability to implement changes that preserve, and ideally, enrich that history.

What are some of today’s cultural trends and environmental factors that affect parks?  There are many.  Some examples include

  • The popularity of dog-ownership
  • Urban Densification
  • Cultural diversity
  • Sea level rise

Old Town Dock

Old Town Dock reopened to the public in May.

J.A. Brennan Associates has worked on several projects recently that featured the redesign of historically significant civic spaces.  One project is Tacoma’s Old Town Dock.  Located on the shores of Commencement Bay, the dock is an important place where people of the historic Old Town neighborhood connect with the water.  Old Town was once a fishing village, which eventually grew into part of Tacoma’s industrial waterfront.  Old Town Dock was built in 1873 and served the shipping industry until operations moved.  The dock fell into disrepair, was condemned, then rebuilt in 1953 and opened to public use with the additions of railings, benches, lighting, a restroom, shelter, and artificial reef.  As Tacoma’s Ruston Way waterfront was changing from industrial use to recreational use, the dock became a popular public space, but was closed in 2008 after it was determined to be unsafe.

Working with Owners and Stakeholders

The City hired Reid Middleton, with J.A. Brennan, to design the dock renovation and restore the vital public space.  The design team worked closely with the Old Town Dock Citizen Advisory Group to understand the history of the dock and the Old Town Neighborhood.  We incorporated many of the advisory group’s recommendations within the context of the Ruston Way waterfront, while accommodating the City’s project budget.

The advisory group sought to recall the character of the older dock and relate to its setting in the Old Town neighborhood.  The group wanted to provide day-use moorage and launching for human-powered watercraft, opportunities for water access and enjoyment, and strengthen the connection between the dock and Old Town.



The re-created dock maintains its original footprint.  For the design of the dock, floats, and upland area, we tried to achieve the advisory group’s goals through the selection of appropriate materials, namely wood on the dock, and brick onshore.  Both materials relate the character of the dock and neighborhood.  Double mast-arm lights, designed by Harbor Power Engineering in collaboration with J.A. Brennan, recall the old wharf’s design standards.

The old wood decking was generally in disrepair but some wood was in good condition, allowing for adaptive reuse.  This salvaged wood was laid in a distinctive pattern beneath the viewing pavilion.  Originally a wood-shingled roof structure, the pavilion was restored with a standing-seam metal roof and rebuilt to recall the original pavilion.

“Droplets” — a series of 9″ to 12” circular porcelain enamel art installations, by Chandler O’ Leary — are dispersed throughout the site and depict past and present scenes of Tacoma’s waterfront. The installation adds intrigue and contributes to the sense of place, providing dock visitors with a subtle and beautiful journey through time.

The dock was renovated and reopened May 15, 2013.  The design process was a successful collaboration between designer and stakeholders, and the outcome reflects the needs of the community while enhancing the historic character of the place.  Since its opening, Old Town Dock has been a smashing hit in Tacoma’s Old Town neighborhood, defining public space, expressing its history, and drawing people to the water.

Aesthetic Enhancements for a City of Kent Flood Wall

Typical concrete floodwall? 

Or integration of art that signifies place? 

These were the choices the City of Kent had when considering improvements to the Boeing Levee at Three Friends Fishing Hole Park.  As the city neared completion of flood wall design for the Boeing Levee, inventive thinkers proposed adding art to the wall’s face along the span of the park.

Six weeks of design time

We were brought into the project as the structural engineering design of the flood-wall levees was nearing completion; a short time remained until the project would be going out to bid.  The short time-frame required quick thinking and an organized process.  Our design team’s familiarity with designing aesthetic treatments for walls and bridges allowed us to go from zero to fully developed construction drawings for wall textures and surface treatments in the allotted time.

An initial brainstorming session with the client led our designers to develop two alternative themes.  A nature-based Green River Ecology theme could honor the ecological story of the river.  The second potential theme employed the history and geomorphology of the Green River Valley, from pristine river to agricultural and then modern-day industrial corridor.  In either case, a part of the river’s story would be told for passers-by on the adjacent bike trail, park visitors, and adjacent industrial landowners.

Working out the details

Multiple material and treatment possibilities were discussed for the expression of the considered themes on the wall face.  Options included

  • Standard and custom formliners, which would create bas relief sculptural elements integral to the wall face
  • Sandblasted aggregate reveal
  • Sawcut patterns
  • Glass fiber reinforced concrete
  • Green wall

In the end, cost was a major consideration.  Research made it clear that the best way forward would be with custom formliners.

Ecological Story

With cost information and design alternative sketches in hand, our client opted to tell the ecological story.  Our designers got to work developing a story board with appropriate images.  Meetings with the client further refined the initial choices and allowed us to move forward with detail design of the custom formliners required to make this vision a reality.  We generated CAD drawings that went into the bid package on time and on budget.

The final design celebrates the Green River with shapes, textures, and colors that are stylized representations of the life forms within the river system.  Recognizable images were selected: salmon, salamander, maple leaf, redtwig dogwood, and blue heron.

Custom formliner panels are 3’x3’, which are easily multiplied to cover the typical wall heights (front and back). The panels depict the wildlife/vegetation in detail surrounded with a subtle background texture.  Panels are designed so that they can be repeated in differing sequences and orientations, interspersed with standard formliner panels, thereby providing a rich and varying experience as one moves along the length of the wall.

In the end, our understanding of the aesthetic design process helped guide the client through a quick decision making process and resulted in a design that tells a place-sensitive story, turns a wall into art and enhances the park experience for all visitors.

The $2.65 million levee project is scheduled to begin construction mid August.

More information: Work to begin soon in Kent on $2.65 million levee project