Bay City

Bay City

This is the presentation I made to residents and officials of Bay City, Oregon officials, in response to their request for a re-design of a vacant lot in the middle of the town.

Proposal for Bay City Town Square and Patterson Creek Park

“Bay City needs a place to welcome visitors, and celebrate community.  It also needs places for recreation – walking, running, biking, playing – and others for informal gatherings like picnics and group events. This proposal imagines a new lower park, a redesigned upper park, and a new town square as places for residents and guests that will also identify Bay City as a small unique town.

As a visitor both to Bay City and the west coast, it took some time for me to discover and know the town. Traditions of building and community that are familiar to me are not present here, and I struggled to uncover the meaning behind the built environment. My initial confusion is expressed in the exploratory art work I made. What I have since learned is that an individual relationship with the land is most important to people, whether as hunter, farmer, fisher, hiker or landowner.  The problem to be solved, then, is how to express community and common identity in a place so individualistic in its orientation and organization.

My suggestion for the empty lot is to define a central town square that clearly and physically marks the heart and spirit of this community, especially to the visitors that come to (and will come to) Bay City’s most public events.  Patterson Creek Park becomes the place used mostly and most frequently by the people who live in Bay City.

I see the square as a seasonal place, used mostly in summer, and into the fall.  The rest of the year it will be less active, but not entirely empty, as it will hold the memories of the events that happen there.  The red maples, as they change color, mark the end of the season, encouraging reflection and remembrance;  the crocus blooming in the lawn in February anticipate all the fun and new memories to be made in the coming year.  In this way the seasons highlight community and celebrate the spirit of Bay City.”

Site Map (town square and park in green)

Patterson Creek Park

The park is divided naturally into two areas by the creek. The upper park features active recreation spaces, while the lower park is quieter, with places for gatherings large and small.  A series of accessible pressed gravel walking (and running) paths pass through and connect the upper and lower parks; these paths are slightly incised, to screen them and preserve the wonderful open feel.  No bikes on these paths!

Features of the Lower Park :

  • Removal of the existing asphalt road/RV parking lot, to provide more open recreation and gathering space in the sun
  • New pavilion with fireplace for picnics and other community gathering
  • Parking alongside park edges
  • Informal and temporary overflow event camping only. This preserves the park for town use most of the time.
  • New bathroom, with showers for campers

 

Features of the Upper Park:

  • Bike jump track, somewhat secluded, for young enthusiasts, with an adjacent “sitting hill”  for their friends and fans 
  • Separate bike path for BMXers to get to their jumps
  • Reconfigured playground, with swings facing the creek, and pine bark mulch for a soft fall
  • New bathroom close to the playground
  • Resurfaced basketball courts
  • horseshoe pits
  • New park entrance on the square, to better connect the park to downtown
  • New entrance on  3rd  Street,  to connect the park to the bay, important to the future development of the waterfront 

 

Town Square
The square can be imagined as a Clearing in the Forest. This is the place where Bay City welcomes visitors to its annual,public events, and where special community events take place.

  • This special public space is marked by a frame of red maples, that line the streets across from the square.  This announces to residents and especially to visitors that the square is an important place, and that special things happen here
  • Pavilions line two sides of the square, providing stall space for weekly markets, festivals, and food vendors as appropriate to various events.  There are benches and lights alongside.
  • Pressed gravel surfaces and walkways allow circulation within, around, and through the square
  • Outdoor stage at the south end for music concerts and theater
  • Central lawn (well drained!) provides a seating area for festival, musical and theatrical events.  The lawn is interplanted with crocus, which bloom in early spring, before the lawn can be used, and die back before the first mowing in summer.  Bright color in a cloudy rainy time!
  • A remodeled restaurant, (The Landing) with new north windows that face the square (for people watching), a new side entrance, highly visible from the square and the street.  This new restaurant entrance helps define the southeast corner as an important entrance to the square, especially for visitors arriving by car.  Also added to The Landing is an outside eating area on the south side of the building, the sunniest place
  • A new park entrance off the square
  • Trees on the south end of the square, for windbreaks
  • Accessible pressed gravel  “sidewalks” under the Maples across the streets from the square, that also connect to the new park entrance
  • Parking alongside the square.  This can be parallel or diagonal parking, but not front-in.  Front-in parking greatly interferes with pedestrian circulation.  For this reason, parking in front of the Art Center is not recommended; accessible parking can be accommodated on site, and other parking for the Art Center would happen along the square. 

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When I returned to New Haven from Oregon I dreamt intensely the first few nights. Over and over the spires and steeples of New England churches and their associated greens and commons passed by. I was home, where the importance of community – one of my most cherished values – is easily read in the buildings and landscape.

This new understanding led me to organize my neighborhood, and advocate for its revitalization, as a personal quest to live what I believe – the effort undertaken as a citizen and resident. As a designer, though, I struggle with my role. Was I correct in my assessment of Bay City? And was my design appropriate for its residents? How broadly is my professional expertise defined? Where is the line that separates my personal preferences and cultural milieu from my expert design knowledge and understanding of the human realm? What I strive for professionally is to be a creative problem solver – to listen to my clients’ desires and needs and to design places that effect the changes and purposes they intend, perhaps in ways they never imagined. The example of Bay City is never far from my mind.


 

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