Saratoga Great Outdoors Project – Benefits for the Entire Community

A Perfect Project for Our Times

While the planning efforts and design work occurred pre-pandemic in 2017, the components of the Saratoga Great Outdoors project were in place just in time to support community and school needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Saratoga Great Outdoors Project covered eleven project sites including all of the schools within the Saratoga Springs City School District and several public park facilities. The effort involved multiple stakeholders and sought the involvement of many varied organizations and individuals. The LA Group partnered with Mosaic Associates and the School District in the design of the varied and far-reaching improvements and additions totaling $15.6 million dollars.

Pickleball Courts

Project Basis and Goals

Research has shown that increased time outdoors can help people of all ages. Time outside results in the following:

  • Higher levels of motivation, energy, and attention
  • Improvements to mood
  • Decrease in stress, anxiety, and depression

There are also benefits to physical wellbeing including increased physical activity, boosts to vitamin D levels, white blood cell counts, and memory functions.

By using a holistic approach to assessing and improving or expanding facilities the Great Outdoors Project expanded and added facilities to support health and wellness not just for school use, but for the entire community and supported and encouraged all in developing and maintaining a healthy body and mind.

 

Goals Achieved – Project Components

Common Components

Covering multiple sites, each with unique conditions, needs, and program requirements, the overall project included common components at some sites including the following:

  • Create outdoor classrooms
    • Sited to help minimize distractions
    • Functional and comfortable components
    • Benefits of integrating outdoor time into the school day
  • Improve existing playground areas
    • Modernize current areas
    • Provided experiences for varying needs
  • Create or expand fitness stations and trails
    • Sited for unique site configurations
    • Consideration of topography on access
    • Provide varied activities
  • Improve or expand athletic components
    • Sports courts
    • Sports fields
    • Youth sports support
  • Accessibility and activities for all users

Site Locations

  1. Eastside Recreational Park
    • New fieldhouse with concessions and bathrooms
    • Renovated park entrances and directory signage
    • New synthetic turf baseball infield with new lights
    • Rehabilitation of grandstand and running track
    • New tennis and basketball courts with lights
    • New pickleball courts – first in the City, and provided in response to community interest
    • Renovated handball court
    • Expanded irrigation
    • New fitness station and trail with pavilion
  2. West Side Recreation Park
    • Fencing renovation
    • Renovated lawn areas
    • Renovated tennis and basketball courts
    • Baseball field renovation including new dugouts and fencing
  3. Caroline Street Elementary School
    • New outdoor classroom
  4. Dorothy Nolan Elementary School
    • New outdoor classroom
    • Two new play areas
    • New fencing
  5. Division Street Elementary School
    • New outdoor classroom and pavilion
    • New play area
  6. Geyser Road Elementary School
    • New play area
  7. Greenfield Elementary School
    • New outdoor classroom
    • New pavilion and gathering area
  8. Lake Avenue Elementary School
    • Recreation area improvements including play equipment and multi-use game court area
  9. Maple Avenue Middle School
    • Athletic field improvements including new dugouts and irrigation
    • Expanded library patio
    • Outdoor Classroom
  10. Saratoga High School
    • New concession stand at the stadium
    • New multi-use sport synthetic turf field
    • New maintenance building
  11. Gavin Park – School Owned Land
    • Paved existing gravel parking area, expanded the number of spaces, and improved safety and accessibility

Design Considerations

Many considerations were made during design, striving to balance requirements, elements, and the following:

  • Placement for ease of access – locate and orient components so easy to use
  • Accessibility – provide access through element placement, equipment selection, pathways and pavements, and grading.
  • Placement to reduce distractions – particularly at the schools, placement so active play can happen while quiet learning takes place.
  • Weather – how can elements be designed for maximum use even in less than favorable weather. Ensuring the site supports good drainage to allow use as quickly as possible after rain events. Solar orientation and covered outdoor space considerations.
  • Security – safety of users through visibility and perimeter control.

Considerations for the project sites after design and construction ensures continued success and use long into the future:

  • Managing cleaning and maintenance through selection of materials and open communication with user groups on expectations and management strategies.
  • Managing allergens and pests through selection of materials, including plant materials to maximize the enjoyability of the spaces for all users.

Benefits for the Entire Community

During the pandemic, the Great Outdoors Project provided cost-effective ways to reduce the burden on classrooms. Looking long term, the project has many benefits to all members of the community. Play benefits the entire community and being out of doors can improve everyone’s health and wellbeing. By providing fun, safe, and attractive play areas, the Saratoga Great Outdoors Project lets people of all ages and abilities have the benefits of play and provides the opportunity for everyone to participate.

Let Us Help!

Do you or your organization want to foster outdoor activities? There are many ways to reach this goal – including small steps. Reach out to us at The LA Group for assistance on any scale project.

For additional info on the benefits of play, see the following websites:

Psychology Today

Creating Outdoor Spaces – Green Schoolyards America

 

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