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Taylor's Field at Beach Park

By Phil Barlow, ASLA, LEED AP, TO Design, LLC

Taylor's Field on opening day. A giant butterfly is perched on the gateway in remembrance of Taylor's love for butterflies.
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To honor the memory of their child, and give back to the community that had been so supportive during Taylor's illness, Keith and Sally Knowles decided to create a lasting memorial in the form of a small, intimate park at the entrance to the play field that she loved. As with most projects of any complexity, this one was soon presented with many challenges, including the familiar ones of permitting, fund raising, and construction. When the Knowles decided in 2007 that the project would benefit from the input of a landscape architect, they approached Phil Barlow, ASLA, LEED AP.

Taylor Knowles was a gregarious, joyous child who loved to run in the field at the school she attended, the School for Young Children in West Hartford, Connecticut. On March 8th 2005, 4-year old Taylor was diagnosed with an inoperable and incurable brain tumor. Only three short months later she passed away at home with her parents. Never once did this extraordinary child complain of the horrific illness that had overcome her. nor did she ever lose her amazing life-affirming spirit.

A bronze plaque at the entrance includes a bas-relief profile of Taylor Knowles along with an inscription of her battle, her positive attitude and her determination to live. Photos courtesy of TO Design, LLC

Working with school staff, a preliminary concept for the park was worked out. Twin gazebos would provide space for outdoor reading circles; gardens would attract the butterflies and hummingbirds that Taylor loved, and the outdoor space would reflect her contagious, jubilant sprit. Sally Knowles, Taylors mother, knew my firm, TO Design LLC, landscape architects and civil engineers through our playground design work with Boundless Playgrounds, where she was employed.

Three Tasks to Be Done
On a beautiful spring morning Keith and Sally visited my office, told me Taylor's story and asked if I could help. I heard that Taylor was a joyful child who loved butterflies and running in the field adjacent to her school. It was an honor to be asked to participate, especially since this was TO Design LLC's 20th anniversary and I had been looking for a project with which to give back to the community that had supported us over the years. It was decided that TO Design LLC could be most helpful with three tasks: finalize the design into construction documents that would allow the project to be permitted, provide a rendered plan that could be used for fund raising, and flush out the details of the symbolic entranceway.

A Plaque and a Butterfly
The final design is composed of whimsical entrance pillars with an archway upon which is perched a two foot butterfly, a monumental stone with a plaque relating Taylor's story and of course butterfly friendly shrubs and groundcovers. This garden frames the field, which is left open with mature shade trees preserved.

On June 4th 2009, four years after the death of Taylor Knowles, Taylor's Field at Beach Park was opened with a gala celebration of her life and spirit.

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October 15, 2019, 4:54 am PDT

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