Lake Toxaway Nature Park

The Lake Toxaway Nature Park is a private park for the Lake Toxaway Estates community. Lift[ED] worked with stakeholders for three years in an intense, engaging, and fun design process to provide a park that engages all ages and nestles carefully into a woodland of native rhododendrons and other native plants. Our services for this project included participatory design workshops, conceptual design, schematic design, construction documentation, fundraising assistance, construction administration, and ongoing engagement through annual inspections.

This is a special project for Lift[ED] because owner and director Jesse Turner grew up in the area, working with his family landscape design and installation business. As a child, Turner was at his father’s heels working for homeowners in the Lake Toxaway Estates development. His school bus in elementary school often stopped at the entrance to the development where he got off and went to work with his dad instead of going home. He grew up in an enriched environment full of nature, people working together towards common goals, and landscape design. Later on he received a scholarship from the Lake Toxaway Garden Club for college, and continued to pursue his passions with the support of his community.

This park is a way of saying thanks and an opportunity for Turner to bring his design skills home. The Nature Park is the first age-inclusive family park in the development and we are happy that we are able to make it all about playing in and being surrounded by the stunning natural context that makes the area special. The park has already been filled with visitors and nature-based programs for kids have already begun. It is with great pride and pleasure that we share this unique place, and we are grateful to the Lake Toxaway Community Association for trusting us to deliver something that serves the entire community.

The Pond at the North Carolina Museum of Art

The Pond at the NCMA is both a recreational facility and an ecological system. The project is a combined BMP that includes bio-retention, constructed wetlands, and open water to create multi-phase water treatment feature. Paths are designed to fit within the overall NCMA trail system and weave around the pond as part of the “Blue Loop”, a program sponsored by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation of NC that encourages exercise. Accessible paths weave through the lush landscape, allowing visitors to enjoy the plants and wide open space

Jesse Turner, PLA, ASLA Lift[ED] Director, was the Project Manager for the initial installation while working at another firm. During the first five years of growth, some of the plant life in the upper terrace fell into disrepair due to a lack of maintenance. In 2015 Lift[ED] was contacted by the NCMA to provide follow-up design services to renovate the upper terrace of the bio-retention area, with the goals of creating a planting scheme that provided water quality benefits and easy maintenance.

The pond at the NCMA has been studied by North Carolina State University’s Stormwater Engineering Group and found to be effective at increasing water quality. This was achieved by allowing water during various rain events to filter through bio-retention terraces that are filled with vigorous native plants. In turn, these plants provide habitat for a multitude of naturally occurring species such as red tailed hawk, crayfish, and many pollinator insects for a low impact, high result solution. 

In addition to design services, Lift[ED] coordinated with local volunteers, including a dedicated group of retiree volunteers, and the public at large to better understand ongoing maintenance needs. Lift[ED] conducted meetings to gather feedback and developed a management guidebook that assists volunteers in understanding how to care for the landscape effectively.

Discovery Grove at The North Carolina Museum of Art

The Discovery Grove is a nature based play area to be constructed in the existing woodland behind the Joseph M. Bryan, Jr. Theater in the NC Museum of Art Park. The grove will incorporate universal design principles and sensory garden concepts to engage a broad user population including those with all manner of abilities and mobility constraints. The woodland area where the grove will be constructed is approximately 2.45 acres, allowing ample space for the grove to accommodate visitors. The grove will expand on the NCMA’s mission to explore the intersection of art and nature by engaging directly with underserved populations, families with young and school-age children, formal, and non-formal educational programs. Unlike other areas of the park, the grove will promote interaction, exploration, and manipulation through a series of carefully selected features that exhibit and highlight the relationship between nature and art. This grove is for a variety of types of learning styles but uniquely offers tactile engagement targeted towards heightening the senses, exciting the imagination, and inspiring further discovery.

Fish Family Play Area

Fish Family Play Area is on the edge of downtown Houston, TX. A part of the Buffalo Bayou Partnership's larger vision to restore the banks of the Bayou, this park creates opportunities for the youngest park visitors to play. The park design, led by SWA Group, provides nature play opportunities for young children and care providers in a safe contained environment. Nearby, the larger landscape of the bayou is waiting for these young visitors to begin exploring as they gain more independent movement as young adults. Jesse Turner, as Design Coordinator for the Natural Learning Initiative, worked closely with SWA Group on the design and specification of materials for the park. His expertise in planning and designing public spaces for children and families was critical in the development of this detailed park.

Down East Discovery Park

The Down East Discovery Park is a multi-use space that serves as a early childhood outdoor learning environment demonstration site and a community gathering space. Owned by the Down East Partnership for Children, the park is frequently used for events that support their work with local schools that focus on early childhood education. Jesse Turner, while Design Coordinator at The Natural Learning Initiative, worked with the DEPC team to develop the design program and prepare the schematic design for the park.

Mary Hayes Barber Holmes Park

We worked with Paul Horne, Pittsboro Parks Planner, to renovate an existing landscape entrance between Mary Hayes Barber Holmes (MHBH) Park and an adjacent residential development. We provided sketch drawings for initial concept design and a planting plan that Horne used to develop the final design. Paul’s project management skills and attention to detail during the construction process was critical in the successful implementation of this project. John Hoffman of Hoffman’s Nursery hosted the design team at the nursery and led a tour of the display gardens to aid in the selection of grasses. All grasses were purchased directly by Horne from Hoffman’s Nursery. This project is an excellent example of how collaboration, even at a small scale, is critical for the success of the built environment.

Play Chastain at Chastain Park

Play Chastain, in the Buckhead community of Atlanta, is a new vision for how children explore and grow through the use of parks. Jesse Turner, as Design Coordinator for The Natural Learning Initiative, worked with Harrison Design Associates, the Chastain Park Conservancy, and the Atlanta Task Force on Play to develop the design for this exciting new park. It features age group specific areas with developmentally appropriate features for all users, including care providers such as parents and grandparents. One of the most exciting features will be the tree house and super-long hill slides on Adventure Hill. This new park will be a wonderful addition to the already vibrant community that shares Chastain Park.