Hazel Abel's Victorian Facelift
By Garnet Sofillas, ECORE International
Hazel Abel Park in Lincoln, Neb., officially wrapped up a two-year, $268,000 'facelift' in July 2011, sponsored by the Abel family and the city of Lincoln. Improvements included moving the play area to a central location in the park and updating the play structures. About 1,485 square feet of Safari Ultra safety surfacing (PlayGuard) was installed for the play area.
Hazel Abel was a distinguished woman of her time. Born in 1888, she graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1908, and went on to careers in both education and business. Most notably, in 1954 she became the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Nebraska. In the 1960s, Hazel's daughter Alice bought land for a park in Lincoln, Nebraska's state capital, and decided to honor her mother's legacy by giving the park her name. Although Hazel Abel Park has served the neighborhood well since its official opening in 1982, the city chose to start a major renovation in 2009 to address safety and maintenance concerns, including making improvements to the park's play area.
''The playground was originally located in the northeast corner, the most remote area of the park,'' said Mark Canney, designer and architect for the Lincoln Parks & Recreation Planning & Design team. ''For visual, safety and functional purposes, we relocated it closer to the front of the park near the
Hazel Abel's daughter, Alice Abel, bought the land for the park in the 1960s and named the space after her mother. A black cast-iron fountain the younger Abel purchased in New York was restored and made a feature of the park during the renovation. New brick walkways and additional trees to shield the park from the street were also added.
Parents also requested the tall hedges surrounding Hazel Abel be cut down to improve visibility and safety within the park. The $286,000 renovation began in June 2009, and other new additions included brick walkways, decorative columns, new landscaping, benches and updated playground equipment
''Hazel Abel Park is about a city block in size,'' said William Weddle, park planner for the city of Lincoln. ''It has a fountain, gazebo, a lot of ornamental plantings, an iron fence that goes around the perimeter, and a playground.''
The park's ''Victorian garden'' theme was emphasized during the renovation with Victorian-style benches, cast-iron fencing that matches the fountain feature, and the retention of the park's original gazebo. Victorian plantings included rhododendrons, hydrangeas, chrysanthemums, geraniums and roses.
Hazel Abel Park is located in an inner section of Lincoln, at the corner of 18th and E Streets. The Abel family contributed $168,000 to the renovations, and the city added $100,000. A black cast iron fountain that Alice Abel handpicked in New York was restored and now sits in the middle of the park.
Although the playground had been resurfaced over the years, the existing surface was 15 to 20 years old and in need of replacement, so the city of Lincoln installed roughly 1,485 square feet of new safety tile.
''PlayGuard is the product we have used as our standard playground surfacing product for 10-15 years,'' said Weddle. ''It's a very long lasting, durable, low-maintenance, high-quality safety surfacing.''
Manufactured in the U.S.A. by ECORE International, these safety surfacing tiles are designed to reduce the risk of serious injury associated with falls from playground equipment. This particular tile can be specified with custom colors and even logos that make it amenable to a variety of projects.
''We used the Safari Ultra series,'' said Weddle. ''It's laid out in a checkerboard pattern – black and gray – for a little diversity, and kids can play tic-tac-toe or four square right on the tile. It's kind of an extra benefit to that pattern.''
The Safari Ultra series features complimentary and easily coordinated wear layer patterns with heightened
''We see wear in some of the high-use areas, like under swings; as those wear down, they can just be pulled up and replaced. It's pretty seamless and simple to do,'' said Weddle. ''The longest application we have is 12 years old, and it's hanging in there very well.''
When Hazel Abel Park was created more than 30 years ago, it was inspired by Victorian style and intended to look old fashioned. The recent renovations were ''an opportunity to pay respect to the original park, but to make it a little more functional for today’s activities; to modernize without losing any of the historic components,'' said Canney.
Since the official reopening in July 2011, Lincoln residents are enjoying everything Hazel Abel Park has to offer, especially its playground. ''Our crew liked the ease of installation, the patrons like it, and the kids like it,'' said Weddle. ''We've had a lot of good, positive feedback on the whole project, especially the playground. I think it fits in well for the area. It's been a very good, positive thing for the community.''