Blue Hole Regional Park
Year completed: Phase I completed in June 2011, Phase II opened summer 2012.
Architect: Design Workshop, Inc.
Project partners: Taniguchi & Associates, T.F. Harper and Associates, Regenerative Environmental Design, PBS&J, GreenPlay, MJ Structures, James Pole, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, FEULS Inc., Walter P. Moore and Moon Design.
Blue Hole is a natural spring-fed swimming hole and a long-time treasured Texas Hill Country destination for visitors and residents alike. After years of unmanaged recreational activities had damaged the site and ecosystem, residents desired to restore Blue Hole and it was purchased for use as a regional park. A design team led by Design Workshop, Inc. was asked to develop a new park to accommodate visitors, restore damaged ecosystems, and reflect the local vernacular cherished by the community, while minimizing environmental degradation.
Additionally, stakeholders sought to make the park a Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) certified project, which would require a careful balance between visitor needs and restoration of the ecosystem. Early on, the design team learned it would have to incorporate the community’s desire for active recreational uses in the park, which were expressed in a public visioning charrette.
Innovative Active Recreation strategies are clearly evident throughout the project. The park supports active and educational uses with soccer fields, basketball courts, playgrounds, camping sites, and swimming in Blue Hole. The design manages to preserve seventy percent of the area’s tree coverage, which provides shade for outdoor active spaces. Nearly five miles of recreational trails were added, including a connection to the regional hiking/biking trail. Pedestrian routes to spaces within the park were made safe, visible, and well-lit. The project is one star SITES Certified and the largest SITES certified project in the nation.
Certification aligns with Active Design in its multidisciplinary approach to development and moves a step further than sustainability in lowering carbon emissions, cleaning air and water, restoring habitats, and increasing energy efficiency, all of which promote a healthier environment for people and the earth. To encourage children to move, the design team created nature-based play features made from re-purposed materials found on-site, such as a limestone interactive water table, a sand pit, and “Cedar Teepees” formed with upside-down cedar roots. A particularly notable achievement is the design team’s ability to protect 96% of the area from development while adding 320,000 square feet of active programming.
Post-occupancy surveys show a 116% increase in average user satisfaction. A record 37,000 park visitors enjoyed the site between Memorial Day and Labor Day during the summer of 2013.
Active Design Highlights: