Coffee Break: Designing Parks

Coffee Break: Designing Parks

Now’s the time to get out and about, with many people heading to their local parks to get some fresh air. We talked to Jonathan Nelsen, one of our landscape architects, about designing parks, the future of parks, and why he loves what he does.

JN: Should I hold my coffee? What’s the situation here? *laughs* So should I look over there or should I look…?

CB: Look at Kendra the whole time.

Coffee Break Episode 6 – Designing Parks

JN: I feel like I ended up looking at that camera quite a bit, but…

Name and position at Bolton & Menk and how do you take your coffee?

JN: Jonathan Nelsen, project landscape architect in the Burnsville office, and black. Actually, my favorite coffee is the coffee at the office – the horrible office coffee.

Why are parks an important thing to have in communities?

JN: Parks are an integral part of our communities beyond providing playgrounds, basketball courts, skate parks, and things like that. Parks have a lot of benefits that people don’t often think about. They provide air and water quality, they help prevent flooding, they provide wildlife habitat. Evidence suggests that parks can also provide mental and physical health benefits to residents.

JN: That was the hardest one too, right? *laughs*

You’ve designed quite a few parks in the Midwest – can you go through a brief overview of what that entails?

JN: So, I’d say the park design process is very similar to the design process associated with many of the projects that Bolton & Menk works on, whether it’s municipal, transportation, or stormwater. Often times it starts with kind of an idea for a new park or modifications to an existing park that are developed during the planning process. Frequently, we will work with the clients after the construction plans are generated to help them through the bidding process as well as through the construction process to make sure these things are built how they’re supposed to be.

How do you see parks changing (if at all) after COVID?

JN: I think a lot of people have the sentiment that there’s concern that the government is kind of overstepping their bounds when it comes to closing down playgrounds and removing basketball hoops or covering baskets and things like that. It’s one of those challenges, I think, that governments face. They want to protect people and protect the population and make sure that people aren’t taking unnecessary risks. It’s something that needs to be balanced, I think, and with the closures coming to an end, we’ll start to see those facilities opening back up and hopefully people will continue to maintain safe social distancing practices as those facilities open back up.

What is your favorite part about designing parks?

JN: Probably the end result, you know? Being able to see the client and community members using this park that I’ve been able to be a part of designing. Seeing the joy on kids’ faces, whether it be a playground or a new athletic complex or anything like that. One of the big things that drew me to landscape architecture was being able to work with people and work with communities and better communities through park design and things like that.

Anything else you want people to know about what you do?

JN: I ask people to not be afraid to reach out to the landscape architects and get us involved in your projects. Obviously, the goal of the company is to provide these wonderful projects and the broader the team we can bring in, I think the better projects we can produce.

JN: Thanks for watching!

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