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Parks + Recreation


4 min

Cow pastures not long ago spanned the hundreds of acres now considered prime real estate along I-49 in an area called Uptown Rogers in Northwest Arkansas. Development has boomed in recent years on both sides of this one-mile stretch of interstate between New Hope Road and Pauline Whitaker Parkway. This piece of the I-49 corridor is home to Mercy Hospital, The Walmart AMP, Topgolf, Embassy Suites and Rogers Convention Center, office towers, and the Pinnacle Hills Promenade shopping mall, among other commercial and residential developments.

from top left: Northgate Plaza, Topgolf, The Walmart AMP, Embassy Suites

A Triple Bottom Line Approach to Roadway Design is a Triple Win for Community

Brad Peterson, P.E., CFM, LEED AP

Vice President - Infrastructure
4 min

To many, a triple bottom line approach brings thoughts of business strategies. This term, which means incorporating a social, economic, and environmental aspect, is a common business and accounting practice and is sometimes referred to as the Three Ps (people, planet, and profit). However, it can be a community improvement practice for municipalities as well.

Municipalities aren’t businesses, but they have a similar mission of getting the best return for their investment. After all, most of the money used for municipal projects is coming from a tax-payer funding source of some nature. Depending on the size of the project, it could be an investment bigger than some businesses will ever make.

12th Street Community Jump Start

12th Street Community Jump Start Project - Little Rock, AR

Sustainability is a key to a strategic investment in roadway infrastructure that will benefit the community, the environment, and the economics of the area. Taking a triple bottom line approach to designing infrastructure for the community can accomplish all these things and create a synergy that can not only produce a return on investment immediately but has the potential for a sustained ROI for years to come. This approach to the design of municipal projects has the potential to transform a neighborhood, community, or an entire city.

Crafton Tull has found this to be true in a variety of projects, including the 12th Street Community Jump Start project in Little Rock, the Levy Jump Start project in North Little Rock, and the Main Street Little Rock Water Quality Demonstration in downtown Little Rock. Each of these street improvement projects serves a different community, but each of them offers benefits to the social, economic, and environmental health of the area, and were designed with the Three Ps in mind.

Little Rock Main Street Water Quality Demonstration

Main Street Water Quality Demonstration - Little Rock, AR

The improvements to each of these areas might seem simple from the outside looking in — improved streets, drainage, pedestrian crossings, better lighting — but looking a little deeper reveals the embedded Three P benefits. What could be implemented as a simple street improvement project becomes something more when the harmony of these three areas is considered and implemented.

Social (People)

A walkable area can make all the difference in the social aspect of a community. A properly designed street and pedestrian accessibility with enhanced safety features, such as lighting, can help to accomplish this goal. Little Rock’s 12th Street and North Little Rock’s Levy communities, as well as Little Rock’s Main Street Corridor all needed improvements to the accessibility of the area and these projects provided these accommodations. But that is only the beginning.

Environmental (Planet)

In each of these designs, low-impact development was utilized, which places an emphasis on environmentally friendly solutions to common infrastructure projects, such as drainage. In the 12th Street Community and Levy improvements, pervious pavement, rain gardens, and other low-impact development help to filter pollutants in stormwater runoff from the streets. In downtown Little Rock, the Main Street Water Quality Demonstration Streetscape focused on showcasing the hydrologic cycle within the urban environment while educating the community about such techniques and their benefits.

These design techniques are not only aesthetically appealing, but they also directly correlate with the restoration of the natural ecosystem within the area. Native plantings and bioswales can reduce the need for some concrete drainage inlets. This approach promotes interaction within the streetscape rather than creating a barrier.

Economic (Profit)

With improved walkability and accessibility comes the potential for economic growth. In all these areas there are small businesses or the potential for new businesses. The economic aspect builds upon the social aspect by improving access to these businesses, which in turn provides a profit for the municipality through tax collection and continued growth. But it doesn’t stop there either.

Following this method allows for the communities to benefit three-fold rather than just improving one aspect of quality of life. Each piece of the triple bottom line approach is interconnected creating a continuous spur for development and further growth in the area.

12th Street Community Jump Start

To institute improvements such as these, the city and the design consultant must solicit buy-in from those in the community, including residents, business owners, and city officials. Once a plan has been put forth, it’s important to designate a champion for the project who will push it forward regardless of potential changes in the economic and political environments. Just as it is important to plan and design with these things in mind, it is equally important to follow through with the project and bring it to fruition as promised.

Ultimately, this approach to city street design can provide a lasting impact on residents, economics, and environment within a community. When considering a lasting return on investment for any municipality, this approach can pave the way for future growth and prosperity.


Playground Surfaces for Improved Access and Play

Dave Roberts, ASLA

Senior Vice President - Business Development
Parks + Recreation
5 min

When imagining a playground, most people likely first think of a spiraling slide or a high-flying swing. Of course, play equipment is essential to a playground, but what’s under that equipment is just as important.

A playground’s surface is a critical component worthy of careful consideration during the design process. It’s essential to understand how various surface types impact safety, accessibility, maintenance, and overall aesthetics. A playground with the wrong surface type could create an unsafe maintenance headache with barriers that exclude some children. However, some surfaces can help elevate the playground experience for kids of all abilities.

KJ Memorial Inclusive Playground - Lowell, AR

Inclusive playground at Kathleen Johnson Memorial Park - Lowell, Arkansas


Unitary surfaces, such as synthetic grass and poured-in-place rubber, are widely considered to be the safest choice because they offer a cushioned floor to lessen the impact of falls. While a cheaper option, loose-fill surfaces like engineered wood fiber do not provide the same impact rating. Additionally, unsafe objects sometimes hide below loose-fill surfaces, and it can be tempting for children to throw or chew the fill material.

Two Rivers Park Inclusive Playground - Little Rock, AR

Inclusive playground at Two Rivers Park - Little Rock, Arkansas

Accessibility and inclusion

Wheelchairs and strollers move with little to no restriction on rubber and synthetic grass playground surfaces. The same cannot be said for loose-fill options. While engineered wood fiber and rubber mulch meet minimum ADA standards, they do not provide the same ease of movement. Landscape mulch, sand, and pea gravel surfaces are not ADA-compliant and should not be used at public parks and playgrounds.

Mills Park Inclusive Playground - Bryant, AR

Inclusive playground at Mills Park - Bryant, Arkansas

Park theme and aesthetics

A playground’s surface can enhance the look and feel of a park and could mean the difference between an environment that sparks play and imagination and one that’s bland. Poured-in-place rubber is popular for its wide-ranging color options and custom design possibilities. It can carry out a park’s theme, highlight walkways and circulation patterns, and add color vibrancy. Imagine a playground with a fishing hole theme. The rubber colors can represent water, sandbars, and even lily pads. 

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