Spy Profile: Miles Barnard on Landscapes and Parks

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In this video, landscape architect Miles Barnard says a little about his philosophy as a designer before offering a gentle appraisal of the problems with the current relationship between Fountain Park and the Farmers Market.

Barnard addresses the key issue — that heavy foot traffic from the Farmers Market tramples the greenery of the park, diminishing its attractiveness. He then weighs two possible solutions: the paving in the park could be expanded to better accommodate foot traffic, so long as the paving does not compress the tree roots and kill one of the park’s key features; or, the Farmers Market could be moved to another street in town, taking the load off the park.

This video is seven minutes long.

Letters to Editor

  1. Bill Kille says:

    Pave it over, then paint it green….. Just kidding!!!

  2. Miles Barnard says:

    As a small business owner I’m always thankful for press. But I hope folks won’t be turned off by the rather sensational headline (which was a surprise to me). The Fountain Park remarks were a blip in what was a 45 minute interview about my business, design philosophy, and love of landscape architecture. Unfortunately a single question about Fountain Park became the focus of the piece and turned this into a political discussion.

  3. Gah, I feel so conflicted between supporting a colleague and giving a friend a hard time…

    🙂

    Miles Barnard is one of the good guys.

  4. Barbara Snyder says:

    Peter Newlin has a good solution .The town council vetoed it. But it was a well thought out plan and would work. Perhaps you and Peter could work together and come up with a plan that would be acceptable. Best wishes.

  5. Barbara Snyder says:

    So what happened to my suggestion?

  6. joe diamond says:

    In another life I worked in the landscape industry and installed the designs of a few landscape architects…. So I know just enough to be dangerous. Having said that here are a few observations:

    *Growing grass under trees is difficult without foot traffic. As Mr. Barnard correctly states the compaction will just continue until there is no grass and the tree roots will be damaged. There is a product called grass crete or similar. These are concrete grids that are installed on bare soil. Than topsoil is smoothed over them & seeded. The result is a paved surface that visually looks like lawn but can be driven upon and foot traffic doesn’t hurt it much. When you look down on the application it looks like a checkerboard of grass and concrete……from the street it looks like a lawn.

    * The grass crete approach would be more appropriate at Wilmer Park where it would allow vendors to drive to sales positions without fear of being stuck in mud or damaging the lawn. Likewise emergency vehicles can operate on the same material. When the area in not in use it can be mowed like a regular lawn and looks like a a grassed field.

    * The fountain park design is of an earlier classical design with the fountain as a visual center of attention. When the park is used as a music venue the fountain is just an obstacle. Again the foot traffic compacts the turf. Hanging speakers in the trees and spiking wire into them is a potential tree killer.

    * The swimming pool paint job on the fountain makes many smile. It is a cast iron replica of something that many have been found in some European
    setting but formed in marble. Would the fountain be just as beautiful if it were in front of the court house?

    * Without the fountain could a functional setting for both the market and entertainment venues be designed?

    Joe

    • Barbara Snyder says:

      But the fountain is what makes the park!

      • joe diamond says:

        Barbara,
        That is exactly the point Mr. Barnard was making. IF you just want the fountain park ban all other activities. The foot traffic and inadequate parking tax the capacity of the center of town. At other times the park is underutalized and almost empty. It is a police responsibility at night but has inadequate lighting to be safe for night time use.

        IF you want to use the area for functions other than drive by viewing you get to decide what is necessary for that use. That is really what is being discussed.

        The fountain is an ornament, a part of a greater whole. I have seen settings exactly like the fountain park in private gardens with topiary and additional water features. There are often screen plantings or walls to make these gardens more private. None have parking meters, parked vehicles and traffic noise around them.

        It may well be that people like the park the way it is. You just have to pretend it is a great plan for other uses. It would be interesting to me to see the plans that were vetoed.

        Joe

        • Marge Fallaw says:

          Joe,
          Good park lighting was installed some years ago (perhaps paid for by the Chestertown Garden Club—can’t recall for sure) but has not been adequately maintained by the town. The in-ground uplighting (under certain trees, near their trunks), which provided nice accent lighting and added to the overall illumination, was the first to go. (However, this type seemed inherently problematic, with mulch and small bits of paper getting into and/or on the fixtures, and water could have been a problem too—I remember reporting one with apparently smoking mulch after one Music in the Park concert when I was volunteer manager, 1995-2007.) I guess those circuits were just turned off and the fixtures covered over with soil.) The spots in the trees (intended to be aimed at the fountain, evidently) often were not re-aimed if they got blown out of their intended alignment, sometimes ending up pointing up into branches above, and bulbs were not always replaced either, at least not promptly. Nor were the spots’ light paths kept open as intended by strategic pruning as often as necessary (maybe every other year?). As for the post lights in and around the park, on a number of occasions I asked that the sometimes filthy glass be cleaned so light could be properly transmitted, as well as that burned-out bulbs be replaced and (in one or more cases, as I recall) that repairs be made to restore a particular post lamp or two to working condition by electrical work. I haven’t been in the park for any evening/night event so far this year and so don’t know the present situation, but I vividly recall that on more than one occasion during post-concert take-down of a concert setup, when the lighting Butch Clark provided finally had to be disconnected, that the park was then plunged into almost total darkness. Aside from difficulty in seeing the remaining work to be done, it was an unsafe place to be underfoot and then felt overall an unsafe, scary, spooky/creepy place besides—not a place where one wanted to be except, perhaps, for someone up to no good there. If Fountain Park is such a town jewel (which it is, an artifact of the Victorian period), the space ought to be treated that way in every respect, with the lighting restored to its potential. When everything was relatively new and working properly, the lighting there was excellent, for both effect and safety.

          • joe diamond says:

            Hi Marge,
            You would know where all the bodies are buried. Could you state how that fountain arrived and how the park design evolved? Was there any discussion of using it as anything but a casual sitting area? Any knowledge of prior uses for the park site?

            How did the kid painting project for the benches come into the plan?

            It looks like the planting plan is intended to stop pedestrians from wandering around/ The place is taking on a certain baroque patina. Might be fun to see what else gets added.

            Joe

    • Steve Payne says:

      Joe,
      I’ve seen those grids used in parks where they’re to provide access roads for maintenance vehicles. They look ok. I would hate to see more paving in the park personally.

      I would look into periodic core aeration.

      • joe diamond says:

        Agreed,
        The core aeration will work on the turf. The town could buy a machine and do well to keep it running on county properties. They probably have a tractor that could operate a small (4″) auger to bore the drip line of the trees / backfill with pea gravel////stuff like that. And the dirty little secret with the grids is that, without great sunlight , you walk on rough concrete. Ladies with high heels have no chance. Baltimore County tried it with park & ride spaces….no grass. Cars parked on the site all daylight hours. My fav for the concrete grids would be Wilmer Park.

        But all this is a stretch. At some point the issue must be decided. Doing nothing is an option….but the problems will not go away. Aside from….there is a fountain in the park and I like it……what is wanted for the site?

        A skilled landscape salesman will not discuss a project without all parties to the job present. Here we have a town full of parties to the project and they neither like each other or agree on much.

        So I churn the pot and watch,

        Joe

  7. Holly Geddes says:

    I am not a great gardener. But I have seen ground cover other than grass that can be walked upon and are supposed to be pretty tough. Is that possible?

    • joe diamond says:

      Holly,
      Could be. The ground covers that are common in Maryland are various kinds of vines…that would cause a tripping problem and would not tolerate foot traffic. The other issues to look at are winter and summer tolerance here. Water requirements could be adjusted but available sunlight is harder to manage. Then there is the issue of keeping weeds out of it.

      I looked at some candidates for building a green roof and found many candidates. All grew real slow and needed some care while coming into full coverage. There could be one out there but it will take some searching. So far grass will be it for lawns around here.

      Joe

  8. Jeffrey Carroll says:

    Editor,

    it is such a shame to see how rundown fountain park looks… the answer is simple.

    How difficult would it be to move the Farmers & Arts Market to lawyers & monument row? already have paved road, plenty of parking behind courthouse & easy access! please tell me why this is not an option?

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