Heather McIntyre's seventh and eighth-grade architectural design students took a walk during class Tuesday, May 3. The Clark Middle School students went north a few blocks and stood in a circle under the shelter at William B. Lyons Park, on Irwin Street adjacent to the Boys and Girls Club. In front of them were the plans drawn up for the park that they've spent much of the school year helping to create. Behind them was an aging playground set in gravel next to a flat, featureless grass lot.
Landscape architect Kevin Doniere held up the blueprints. Where they stood would become a covered band shell, a place for dance and other performance with amphitheater-style seating. Landscaping features and seating structures would border the grassy field, meant to attract picnics and gatherings. The current parking lot would be rebuilt and beautified. On its surface would be painted a giant mural, a map of the earth from the perspective of looking down upon the Arctic. It's part of the "global village" theme will also be reflected elsewhere. Throughout the park, panels would display the artwork of Clark students.
Doniere and Chad Taylor partnered with the McIntyre's class to redesign Lyons Park (not to be confused with Lions Park on Mountain View's east end). Both are volunteers of the American Society of Landscape Architects. Not only did the task provide the student real-world experience, but their ideas were valuable to the project, they say. "Everything has been influenced by their input," Taylor said. "They've been really integral to the whole thing."
For instance, Doniere said the students helped redefine the park's purpose. Instead of just replacing an old playground with a new one, students considered how it could be used as a gathering space for all ages - sort of a neighborhood Town Square. "Since we designed it, we put stuff in people might like," said thirteen-year-old Francis Tuikolongahau.
The park isn't ready for shovels quite yet, though. Suzanne Little, a park planner for Anchorage Parks and Recreation, says the city has partnered with the Anchorage Park Foundation to fund construction. The project, as it is currently planned, would cost about $400,000. Little says they have about $220,000 to work with now. She says options moving forward involve finding the funding or reducing the scope of the project, or some combination of the two.
McIntyre, a first-year teacher, says she thinks the Lyons Park project is providing more than practical skills for the 50 kids who have been involved. She hopes their involvement will foster a sense of ownership in Mountain View. "They can look back and say 'I did that'," she said. At the end of Tuesday's site visit, ideas were still coming in from her students. As they started the walk back to Clark, Jacob Arnold, 13, chimed in. "We should get more flowers along the sides," he said.