The good, the bad, the possibilities: local parks + green space

This is the third article in our 8-part series of weekly blog posts called “The Good, the Bad, the Possibilities”. For this series, we are asking local experts three questions to give you a quick overview of recent local trends and solutions with respect to a range of important issues that affect our community’s sustainability. This week’s topic is parks and green space, and our featured expert is Lee Jones, Director of Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation.

Park stock photo

Lee, a licensed architect and member of the American Institute of Architects, oversees the overall planning, organizing and directing of the administrative and operational activities of the Park & Recreation Department.  He previously served as division director for the department’s Capital Planning and Alliance Services division, where he was responsible for coordinating the planning, design and construction of the department’s facilities and overseeing the development of many partnerships. Over the years, Jones completed several notable park projects, including First Ward Park, Romare Bearden Park and the Mecklenburg County Sportsplex at Matthews.

Prior to joining Mecklenburg County in 2004, Jones worked for private architectural firms, and later served as facilities planner for Arlington County, Va. and deputy director for Prince George’s County, Md. Department of Environmental Resources. He holds a bachelor of arts degree in architectural studies from Wesleyan University and a master of architecture degree from the University of Virginia.

With regard to parks and greenways, over the past few years:

What are 2-3 positive trends or developments?  

“Our residents are asking us to provide more parks and greenways than ever before.  We are also being queried and visited by a variety of entities that are in the process of preparing master plans for initiatives, such as park amenities.  They like what we have done here [in Mecklenburg County] and want to follow our lead.”

“Greenways have become the lifeline for recreation and connectivity in Mecklenburg County and are being heavily used and overwhelmingly supported by all.”

What are 2-3 negative trends or developments?

“We are experiencing ever increasing costs of construction for our park projects, making it difficult for us to keep the projects on budget. [Additionally,] there is so much construction activity going on here that it is becoming more and more difficult to generate interest and obtain bids from experienced and qualified contractors.”

Elders at the park

What solutions would help reverse the negative trends/developments?

“Developing a methodology (like a Construction Manager at Risk) scenario where you can meet and work with potential contractors during the project planning and design process to identify potential cost and time savings without sacrificing the design intent of the project.”

“We have [also] found that pooling similar, smaller projects and allowing them to be bid together has netted cost savings and made the projects more attractive to qualified contractors.”

Romare Bearden park
Want to hear more from Lee, and other folks who work on parks and green space in our region? Read about our March Grow Smart CLT event, where Lee spoke on our panel about parks and green space. He and our other panelists shared ways that you can make a difference in your community to advance this issue. And check back next week for more interviews with sustainability experts!

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