Elk Ridge Park
Reflects the Colorado Lifestyle
Landscape Architecture by Design Concepts • Landscape Contracting by Designscapes Colorado
Elk Ridge Park in Castle Pines is one of Colorado’s newest and most spectacular public parks. The park’s active play zone offers an open slide, a variety of net climbers, climbing boulders and other climbing equipment (Landscape Structures). Dispersed plantings of bristlecone pines characterize the area.
Nestled in the rolling foothills beneath the Rocky Mountains, Elk Ridge Park is one of Colorado’s newest and most spectacular public parks. The park resides within the community of Castle Pines North (pop. 10,000), a city about 20 miles south of Denver in Douglas County. The park, a destination for the greater Denver metro area, is one of a kind, offering visitors 360-degree views of the Colorado plains, foothills and the Rocky Mountains. This dramatic landscape inspired the park design. Green hillsides, native trees and shrubs, climbing boulders and an ADA accessible trail network all reflect the Colorado lifestyle. Elk Ridge may be located in a suburban setting, but the designed landscape feels like
The cast-in-place concrete water play pad (built by CEM Sales Service with Vortex spray nozzles, piping, valves and drains) has circular bands of colored concrete that match the runneled block features. The active play zones and custom steel shelter (Classic Recreation) have views of the synthetic turf athletic field. The benches are by Wassau.
Elk Ridge Park had its grand opening Sept. 17, 2011. The park covers 12 acres of diverse recreational space. Axel Bishop, RLA, co-founder of Design Concepts with Robby Layton, RLA, stressed the importance of multi-ability and multigenerational play elements. “As leaders in this movement in Colorado, this park is a significant step in addressing all forms of recreation in a single social and recreational area,” Bishop said. Intricately crafted amenities reflect this approach, from garden walks to category climbing, visitors to Elk Ridge are encouraged to interact with the park using all of the senses. This makes Elk Ridge both physically and mentally engaging.
The aerial view takes in the synthetic turf field, trails, play zones and the promenade. Great Outdoors Colorado, funded through the Colorado Lottery, awarded the Castle Pines Parks Authority a $700,000 grant to help fund the $4 million development of Elk Ridge Park. Axel Bishop from Design Concepts wrote the successful grant application. CPN Metro District Open Space Manager Charlie Fagan also played an important role in the
The central focus of the park is the Promenade Bridge that connects the active play areas with the recreational and leisure areas. Here the natural geology of Colorado is mimicked aesthetically and functionally. The underpass section of the bridge is formed concrete hand-stained to give the wall a spectacular “weathered stone” aesthetic. Connected to the underpass section is a stretch of wall featuring beautifully handcrafted, naturalistic boulders, commonly seen in zoos. The boulders offer challenges not only for children learning to climb, but also for those with more climbing experience. On warm days kids can cool off by walking behind the waterfall feature.
Atop the bridge, the Promenade features intimate outdoor rooms or pods connected with a winding walkway. On either end of the walkway are sculptures dedicated to the summer and winter solstices. Artists Mary Williams and Carol Jeanotilla were inspired by the Anasazi Indians’ Sun Dagger Rock formation in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. The Anasazi resided in the Four Corners area of the Southwestern U.S. from about 1200 B.C. to 1300 A.D.
The enclosed slide zone features poured-in-place play rubber surfacing (Imagination Playground Surfacing), climbing walls and “ancient ruins” (Integrated Design Solutions), plus “Contrabass Chimes” (Freenotes).
Educational experiences like the solstice makers are important components at Elk Ridge. Another such feature is the scavenger hunt. Strategically placed markers guide visitors on a quest around the park, where they decipher visual and literary clues about the environment.
The scavenger hunt makes use of the framework of trails at Elk Ridge, 1.5 miles of paved and unpaved pathways up, down, around, and through the park. The ADA accessible trail design creates a range exercise levels from a mellow stroll to a hiking challenge.
Hang onto the rail, little buddy, and wear tennis shoes next time on the concrete/foam (hand-painted) boulders! The bathroom and athletic field are in the background.
The western half of the park is home to the active play elements. While play zones and a sports field are the main attractions here, they are anything but traditional. There’s a multifunctional synthetic turf sports field. Multiple field lines create the boundaries for football, soccer, track and field games, baseball and kickball. While the synthetic field is not maintenance free, it will last longer and handle the stress of use better than its natural counterpart. The play zones feature state-of-the-art climbing and play equipment suitable for all ages and generations.
Designscapes built the Promenade Bridge. Meza Construction (the sub) poured the formed concrete and Designscapes hand-stained and sealed the concrete. The arch strip is ‘Colorado Rose’ sandstone. The bridge walkway has a custom steel railing. Limber pine, juniper and swamp white oaks are spaced around the bridge. About 80 percent of the park turfgrass is a native seed mix; 20 percent is bluegrass sod.
The Eastern half of the park is geared toward passive play and recreational activities. Here, multiple pavilions provide shelter for barbecuing and gathering. The undulating topography and expansiveness on this side of the park allow for more imaginative play. Visitors will enjoy this area in the wintertime, as it is perfect for sledding.
Summer solstice sculpture created by Mary Williams and Carol Jeanotilla are inspired by the Anasazi Sun Dagger Rock formation at Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. The sculptural textures mimic the patterns of fossils, leaves, trees and sea life of Colorado’s archeological past. The wall cap and step construction are ‘Colorado Rose’ sandstone.
Elk Ridge is the anatomy of the 21st century public park. The notion of a truly public park means accommodating a wide range of ages and interests of a community. Elk Ridge is the brainchild of this type of approach to park design. But how exactly was this accomplished? Budgets, construction, schedules, constituents and community leaders can play tug-of-war in projects of this sort. How can all of these needs and expectations be met without sacrificing the integrity of the project? With great ideas and an experienced team, those ideas come to fruition and culminate in a stunning amenity that is a lasting investment in community. Elk Ridge Park in Castle Pines, Colorado is one such example of collaborative achievement.
To create the Anasazi maze mural images were sandblasted and stained vertically on the stucco wall, and horizontally on the concrete.
Communication between the client, architect and contractor was key to the success of this project. The contractor (Designscapes Colorado) and the landscape architect (Design Concepts) brought to the project a working relationship stretching back nearly 10 years. The confidence and expertise exhibited by city project manager Charlie Fagan smoothed construction and saved Castle Pines money. The result of this collaboration was a clear understanding of the vision and precise execution of the design.
Elk Ridge Park’s green hillsides, native trees and shrubs, climbing boulders and an ADA accessible trail network all reflect the lifestyle in Castle Pines, Colorado.
Like most projects, Elk Ridge did present challenges, particularly for the Designscapes Colorado construction crew.
Topography presented the biggest challenge in terms of setting and proposed grading. Careful planning of the earthwork allowed creation of level play areas within the sculpted rolling peaks and valleys of the park. This construction gave Elk Ridge its natural feeling and sense of place within its surroundings. The winter/spring construction schedule presented its own issues as well. An early freeze made initial earthwork quite difficult. Record-breaking spring storms led to shifts in whole sections of earth. A typical workweek consisted of as much clean up from storms as it did for construction. The hard work and perseverance of the Designscapes crew was crucial in meeting these challenges.
This side of the Promenade Bridge has a COR-TEN steel basket of river rock atop a brownstone block. The basket is a scavenger hunt marker. Written clues are hidden on the river rocks. The brownstone stack behind it (left) is a trail marker or cairn (Irish: carn, plural cairn). Cairns have been built at least since the Neolithic period, the latter part of the Stone Age. The rock bed has Shenandoah red switchgrass growing, with a Plains cottonwood (left).
Designscapes Colorado was founded in 1992. From its inception, the focus of the company has been providing exceptional, comprehensive landscape service ranging from design, to construction, to maintenance. Tom Brownfield oversees the commercial division at Designscapes Colorado and was responsible for the oversight of construction at Elk Ridge. “Elk Ridge is an example of cutting edge park construction, in that its recreational amenities are reflective of their natural place and of the people who
Sandblasted pathway imagery has native verbena and iris on either side. Design Concepts supplied the artwork; Designscapes sandblasted and stained the artwork and lettering. The words circling the leaf are from Friedrich Schiller (1759–1805): “But how can we speak of mere play, when we know that it is precisely play and play alone, which of all man’s states and conditions is the one which makes both sides of his nature at once?”
Elk Ridge’s lasting impression may be its impact on community. “Soon every Colorado community will have tailored play to fit every generation and ability,” predicts Axel Bishop. “Bringing people together is a hallmark of Western recreation.”
The sports field is a synthetic turf. A baseball backstop, soccer goals, and football uprights give the field sport versatility. The paved trail in the foreground loops the entire field.