By: Brian Cipriano and Kelly Offerman
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By: Brian Cipriano and Kelly Offerman
Bles Park Master Planning
Nestled in the heart of Ashburn, Loudoun County, Va., lies Bles Park, a sprawling 124-acre expanse of natural beauty and recreational potential. With 30 acres dedicated to active amenities like soccer fields, walking trails, and a tot lot, and an additional 94 acres of serene passive parkland, Bles Park is already a cherished destination for residents seeking respite and adventure.
As part of the County Capital Improvements Plan, the park was slated for upgrades and enhancements to meet the evolving needs of the community while preserving its natural charm. Prior to simply upgrading the trails and parking, the County decided the development of the master plan would be more beneficial to ensure placement of the immediate needs would not impact future improvements.
When completed, the project will offer safe and accessible parks and recreation opportunities by means of an inter-connected open space that provides diverse activities for all ages, interests, and abilities.
The Role of the Master Plan
Master planning and design services were performed in effort to modernize the park, ultimately updating the overall usage. The first step included conducting a comprehensive site inventory and analysis, carefully examining every aspect of the park’s landscape features such as soils, amenities, wetlands, topography, and vegetation. Armed with this information, Gordon embarked on the programming phase.
Part of the modernization was to update the park with a multi-generational playground for use by adults and children to enjoy together. Features such as cross-fit and exercise equipment will encourage parents to actively play while their children are playing, which will encourage longer use of the park and spending quality time with family members.
The playground will be open sunrise to sunset with adult fitness, trails, pavilions, tennis & pickleball courts, a dog park, canoe launch, and open lawn area for free play as well as picnic areas. These features will be used at different times of the day, all day long. The plan incorporates the principle of “Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED),” which Gordon’s designers are fully versed in, so the community will have a sense of security and natural surveillance.
Various educational signage will line the wetland boardwalk, providing yet another use for the park and adding further value to the surrounding community.
Community and Stakeholder Input
Gordon’s master planning didn’t end with their experts alone. Recognizing the vital role of community input, several outreach sessions were conducted to gather valuable feedback from the park’s most important stakeholders—its residents. In close collaboration with the county, six initial concepts emerged, each one aiming to strike a balance between expanding parking and facilities while preserving the park’s precious natural habitat.
The connection between Gordon and the community did not stop at gathering opinions. It was a dynamic relationship, with Gordon actively engaging the public through various meetings and presentations. Every image board, every outline, and every question asked and answered contributed to refining the design, ensuring it resonated with the collective vision of the community.Challenges & SolutionsFor Bles Park, one significant challenge was to balance the natural and built environmental conditions and existing amenities while preserving the natural habitat. This was successfully accomplished by gaining community and stakeholder input.
In addition, the location of the park being in the FEMA floodplain of the Potomac River. Compliance with regulations posed a daunting task, especially as the project envisioned substantial development within this sensitive area. Yet, Gordon and the project team tackled this issue head-on, collaborating closely with the Loudoun County Floodplain Administrator to explore innovative solutions.
Fortunately, much of the proposed development remained at a level that did not significantly alter the floodplain, and where minimal impact was projected, a “No-Rise, No-Impact” certification was secured. This crucial certification affirmed that the development’s implementation would not affect FEMA flood elevations or floodplain mapping.
Bles Park’s transformation promises to be an example of how thoughtful master planning, community involvement, and creative problem-solving can converge to create a recreational haven for generations to come.
Gordon is currently completing phase 1 design with construction to begin in Fall 2023.
Brian Cipriano is a professional landscape architect at Gordon, and Kelly Offerman is director of business development and marketing at Gordon.