Placemaking and Green Infrastructure at Marsh View Park
When we hear the word infrastructure, we usually think about elements of the built environment, such as roads, bridges, storm sewers, telephone lines, or other structures and systems that provide the essential services a society needs to function. In recent years, however, the term infrastructure has started to be used more broadly, and has expanded to include elements that might not, at first pass, seem to fit in the same mold.
Rain gardens, native plantings, and wetlands, also known as green infrastructures, are components of the natural environment that offer their own set of essential human services, either inherently or by design. A wetland, for example, provides flood protection and contributes to water quality by capturing and filtering stormwater. This green infrastructure can provide some of the same services as constructed utilities — such as a storm or sewer line — but through a different mechanism. When integrated into a site design, green infrastructure strategies can contribute to the site’s functional needs and stormwater management requirements and elevate the user experience using natural elements.
Marsh View Park is a 96-acre park with a predominantly natural landscape in Oakland Township. Conceived as part of the Township’s strategic plan to serve its growing residential population with recreational facilities, it hosts a 30-acre universally accessible development with an archery range, soccer fields, a basketball court, and pedestrian pathways. PEA Group (Formerly Russell Design) had the challenge of designing these facilities on land with considerable topography, heavy, clayey soils, and no existing utilities that could collect water draining from the site. Moreover, as the name implies, the parcel ran adjacent to a large emergent marsh — most likely a tamarack swamp at one time, but which had since been logged and farmed. It was an ecologically rich place, bordered by cattails and populated with species like swamp aster, wood toads, and yellowthroat. What might it look like to solve the site’s challenges while preserving the character and ecological integrity of the existing natural features? PEA Group integrated green infrastructure strategies to meet both needs.
Athletic fields, distributed across the site, are interconnected by an accessible path network of asphalt and crushed stone. Each field is flanked by a bioswale, a vegetated channel that collects runoff from the fields. It filters potential contaminants before directing the water toward the wetland or allowing it to infiltrate the soil. Native grasses, flowers, and trees fill other void spaces. These soft surfaces absorb rainwater— 100% of the stormwater in the project is collected and treated on-site — while also creating shade on hot summer days, unifying the pieces of the park into a coherent experience, and blending recreation seamlessly with the natural environment.
In the first several years of the project, Oakland Township maintained a stewardship program to ensure that the native plantings gained an edge over potential weeds and invasive species. With a limited budget from the outset, a longer-term strategy allowed for cost distribution over time without the high up-front cost of providing utility connections to the parcel. Since its completion, Marsh View Park has served residents of all ages and abilities across Oakland Township with unique recreational opportunities. The green infrastructure strategies allowed this new program to fit into the site’s fabric, protecting its ecological and hydrological context while creating a community asset enhanced by scenery and sport.
At PEA Group, we are truly passionate about designing amazing parks and recreational spaces for communities to enjoy. We believe that parks are an essential part of any thriving community, providing a place for people to connect with nature, get some exercise, and have fun with family and friends. If you share our love for parks, check out our other projects below.