In the Park
The new Tilton Park becomes the latest in a city full of beautiful public spaces.
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When Clara Zahradnik learned the city would be forced to replace the Cool Spring reservoir—a feature not unlike a rectangular concrete pond—with an underground tank, she, like many neighborhood residents, was nervous. The seven-acre reservoir had not only provided drinking water to the city since 1875, it had also served as a social and visual focal point of the historic community since its construction.
“You could always stand by the reservoir and see the city skyline rising behind it,” says Zahradnik, president of the Cool Spring-Tilton Park Neighborhood Association. “We wanted Public Works to preserve that very special water feature,” a place residents could use “for concerts and picnics, or just for a quiet walk in the evening.”
For its part, the department of public works wanted the same thing. Now, after seven years of planning, a year of construction and $22.1 million, the reservoir area has been turned into a beautiful new park—a jewel in a city blessed with historically significant parks. The new reservoir and Tilton Park is the largest public works project in city history.
“This has always been a signature space for the city,” says Public Works Commissioner Kash Srinivasan. “We knew we needed to keep the 125-year visual that the open reservoir provided the community there.”
From initial community meetings, smaller working groups of city officials and area residents were formed. “What came out of those working groups were a lot of ideas generated by residents, which became the criteria of what we wanted the park to look like,” says Zahradnik.
Those criteria were sent to seven engineering and landscape architectural firms, who competed for best design. The winner was Pennoni Associates in West Chester, Pennsylvania. The winning element of its design was a promenade over the old reservoir, which created a pedestrian walkway through the park from Eleventh Street, Srinivasan says.
“There were other designs that were interesting, but we were somewhat worried that the costs might be higher than estimated,” Zahradnik says. “We felt the Pennoni design offered the best preservation of the water feature, and, by keeping it located at street level, would also be the most cost effective.”
With a total of $22.1 million allocated for the underground tank and park construction ($4.5 million for the park itself), construction on the tank began in 2005. It was completed in March 2008. Construction of the park began in July 2008. It was completed in September.
The old open-water reservoir, defined by a berm, occupied a rectangular area of almost 7 acres. It had a capacity of 40 million gallons. The new pond, a half moon shape with a fountain, covers 1.3 acres. It contains about 320,000 gallons of water. A raised lawn over the new underground tank occupies the rest of the property. An outer footpath, open to the public at all times, is nearly a half-mile long. An oval path within the park is just over a quarter-mile around. Half the oval defines the pond. The other half leads through the lawn. A pergola stands in the middle of the oval. The park is gated to regulate dawn-to-dusk use.
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