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Legacy Commons at Memorial Park, Rapid City, South Dakota
Wyss Associates, Inc., Landscape Architecture, Concept Design and Project Management


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The plan for the entire Legacy Commons area is part of the redesign of Memorial Park, which also included a new promenade to connect the civic and convention center with the downtown. Legacy Commons features six play pods separated by green space and gardens. Patrick Wyss, FASLA, originally designed Memorial Park in 1978 as part of an 8-mile greenway development after the devastating June 9-10, 1972 flood in Rapid City, South Dakota. According to the USGS, 15 inches of rain fell over a 6-hour period. When Canyon Lake Dam failed on the night of June 9, it cost the lives of 238 people and destroyed 1,335 homes. Markers are installed on the south side of Rapid Creek to commemorate the 1972 flood.


Legacy Commons at Memorial Park in Rapid City, SD, is designed as a series of play pods interconnected with pathways and gardens, providing a sense of anticipation and discovery throughout the park. The location is adjacent to the Memorial Park Promenade and serves as an added attraction to draw families into this urban park and spend time enjoying the playgrounds and gardens. Patrick Wyss, FASLA, originally designed Memorial Park in 1978 as part of an 8-mile greenway developed after the devastating 1972 flood in which 272 people lost their lives.

The Legacy Commons master plan focuses on "Remembrance and Renewal." For remembrance, the plan includes an identification of floodway boundaries and interpretive panels to remind visitors of the raw destructive power that nature sometimes unleashes. The renewal focuses on a living legacy, with playgrounds and interpretive gardens to bring new activity and people into the park.

 

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For the Legacy Commons playgrounds in Rapid City, South Dakota, custom pieces included a historical homage to mining in the area and renderings of native wild life and critters. This "rock" wall displays trout and other native fish in Rapid Creek.



Play Pods
The playground pods are the design of Wyss Associates. The play structures are by Landscape Structures, Inc. (LSI). These individual play areas encourage many levels of activity and foster discovery, creative and educational play, social interaction and physical fitness, while offering a wide variety of activities for all ages and abilities.

Evos Climbing Pod: This is a custom designed play feature that is found nowhere else in Rapid City but at Legacy Commons. The sculptural play area is located directly next to the Promenade's Art Plaza. The climbing and swinging activities take place on a play structure shape patterned after the stage in Main Street Square. This area is intended to serve as a transition between the Promenade and Legacy Commons.

 

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The 'Evos' Climbing Pod is a custom designed play feature meant for 5 to 12 year olds. The six playground pods are the design of Wyss Associates and Landscape Structures (LSI). All the pod play structures/elements are from LSI, as is the poured-in-place playground surfacing. The 'Eclipse Rush' slide has a hood and platform to transition kids into a safe sitting position. This play area is located directly next to the Promenade's Art Plaza. 'Parc Vue' benches let parents watch the playground action in comfort.



Inclusive Play Pod: This area is located next to the "Scotty" Memorial and is designed to attract children with a wide range of physical capabilities. What "accessible" means on the playground needs some mention. LSI notes on its website that over the years it has learned that accessibility is not enough. "Simply getting a child with limited mobility onto the playground doesn't necessarily enhance their play experience, nor does it take into consideration children with sensory deficits and other developmental issues," writes LSI. For that reason the playground manufacturer developed its own accessible play elements ('Inclusive Play') to bring together children of all abilities, and meet a variety of needs on a single playground. "The combination of these elements allows every child to choose how they want to engage in the play space," explains LSI. "Our process is grounded in best practices from experts in the field of universal design, developmentally appropriate practices in play for all children and our collective history of what is needed to support all children."

Rock and Rope Play Pod: This pod features simulates rock outcropings similar to the limestone and granite rock formations seen in the Black Hills. This pod is located on the east side of the park that row of existing spruce trees, giving it a natural and protected setting.

 

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Discovery is an important part of play activity. This colorful pictorial guide in Legacy Commons helps children seek out and find the flora, fauna and fossils of the South Dakota landscape.



Natural Play Pod: There are two natural play areas located at the top of the terraced amphitheater. The ideal spot for kids to play is a natural landscape where they can freely explore the outdoor environment and create their own fun and games. The nature-inspired playground collection for this pod combines the adventure and wonder of nature with the durability, safety and low maintenance of high-quality play equipment. The pod is a mix of predesigned natural play features combined with custom designed rock outcrops inspired by those of the Black Hills. Note: The Lakota Sioux called the area paha sapa, meaning "hills that are black." From a distance, the hills look dark because of the heavy forest.

Age 2-5 Play Pod: The area designated for the toddlers (2-3 year olds) and their more developed pre-grade schoolers (4-5 year olds) is a mecca for play and social interaction. The play features, naturally, are a mix of elements designed for the interests and physical capabilities of this age range. Interwoven in this play pod are custom designed features hinting at the region's long heritage of supporting Ellsworth Air Force Base. The base is 10 miles east of Rapid City.

 

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The Lewis and Clark Garden includes plantings first recorded during by the Lewis and Clark expedition: Northern Maidenhair fern, Alpine Clematis, Moonshine yarrow, Kinnikinnick and Big Sky After Midnight coneflower. The trees are Quaking aspens and Triumph elms. The stepping-stones are Buff Ledge Stone.



Pulse Active Play: The 'Pulse' line of interactive, multisensory games encourages movement in an exciting new way. This reimagined game doesn't need a net. Kids take turns chasing and touching the lights as they bounce from post to post. You're sure to hear cheers when someone wins a set. The developmental benefits of this innovative play activity include agility, auditory stimulation, visual, tactile, cardiovascular, cognitive and collaborative play. The tennis and table tennis are designed for 2 to 8 players, but is fun for all ages.

The Gardens
Sensory Garden: This small raised garden, adjacent to the Inclusive Play area is designed to stimulate the senses and be appreciated by visitors of many ages and physical capabilities. Changes in pavement texture and color will alert visitors to look for special garden features. Shade trees in this area assist visitors needing less direct sunlight. Identification and interpretation will be accomplished will include descriptions in printed in brail. Color-coded signage will highlight the different senses associated with each planting area. Plantings for each sense include:

 

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Pathways connect the play pods and enhance the discovery aspect of the park. The pathways also connect to the community's 12-mile greenway bike path, providing walking and bicycling access to Legacy Commons. The park turf combines sodded bluegrass with a 50/50 seeding mix of Elite Kentucky bluegrass and Elite perennial ryegrass. The existing trees are cottonwoods, native to the floodplain riparian landscape, along with green ash, Ponderosa pine and Burr oak.



Sight:
• Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
• Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
• Red columbine (Aquilegia Canadensis)

Sound:
• Wind through the existing cottonwoods
• Wind chimes
• Evergold sedge (Carex hachijoensis 'Evergold')
• Red Rooster grass (Carex buchananii 'Red Rooster')
• Water

 

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The barrier free pod invites children of differing ages and abilities to experience active play and social interaction. The blue play pieces (front to back) are the 'Omnispin' (group spinner), a 'Sway Fun Ramp' with accessible ramp and the 'Double Bobble Spring Rider'.



Smell:
• Perennial thyme (Thymus praecox'Highland Cream')
• Flowering carpet Rose (Rosa X noatraum)
• Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
• Aromatic aster (Aster oblongifolius)

Touch:
• Rough edge to the planter top
• Silver sagebrush (Artemisia cana)
• Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
• Textured stones

Taste:
• Dwarf Garden phlox (Phlox paniculata 'Peppermint Twist')
• Sage - 'Golden Delicious'
• Perennial thyme (Thymus praecox 'Highland Cream')
• Chives 'Grass Onion'

 

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The 2-5 Play Pod provides safety separation from the more active play pods, but does offer an age appropriate slide, low-relief terraced rock climbers, a small scale cargo net climber, a 'Cozy Dome' and interactive panels with imagery, sights (periscope) and sounds (bongos, bells chimes). This play pod is conveniently located next to the Children's Garden. A colorful shelter offers parents seating and shade close to the playground action.



Lewis and Clark Garden: This garden includes plants seen for the first time by European Americans. The source used by the landscape architects was Paul Johnsgard's Lewis and Clark on the Great Plains: A Natural History.

• Blue flax (Linum lewisii)
• Buffaloberry (Shepherdia argentea)
• Gumbo evening primrose (Oenothera caespitosa)
• Lanceleaf sage (Salvia reflexa)
• Aromatic aster (Aster oblongifolius)
• Aromatic sumac aka Squaw bush (Rhus aromatica)
• Bearberry aka Kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
• Bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa)
• Creeping juniper (Juniperus horizontalis)
• Chokecherry (Prunus pennsylvanica)
• Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa)
• Purple coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia)
• Western red cedar aka Rocky Mountain juniper (Juniperus scopulorum)
• Wild rose (Rosa arkansana)

 

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The Play Pod offers interactive electronic-based games. The 'Pulse Table Tennis' unit (left) has four stations, each with two electronic orbs. The kids tap the pods as soon as they see them light up. The fast play is accompanied by the sounds of paddle hitting balls. Players can tally points or just play for fun. The flashing lights of 'Pulse Tennis' (the curving yellow poles back right) encourage more physical movement. This pod is adjacent to the Black Hills Indigenous Garden.



Children's Gardens: These plantings are adjacent to the play area designed for the 2-5 year old age group. These plantings include small and dwarf plants more in scale with small children.

• Japanese maple, 'Red Dragon' (Acer dissectum)
• Weeping Caragana (Caragana arborescens 'Walker')
• Pawnee Buttes sand cherry 'Tree Form' (Prunus besseyi)
• 'Blue Mist' bluebeard (Caryopteris x clandonensis)
• Cranberry cotoneaster (Cotoneaster apiculatus)
• Woadwaxen (Genista tinctoria 'Royal Gold')
• 'McKays White' potentilla (Potentilla fruitcosa)
• Neon Flash spirea (Spiraea japonica 'Neon Flash')
• 'Dark Horse' weigela (Weigela florida)

Black Hills Indigenous Gardens: Rapid City lies within the geomorphic region of the Black Hills. These proposed gardens are located adjacent to and near the natural play areas of Legacy Commons, all within the Rapid Creek riparian zone. Gardens in this area emphasize the area's dramatic natural landscape of the Black Hills, Badlands and Great Plains.

 

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The playground design for the "natural play" areas in the park simulate the famous Black Hills rock formations of western South Dakota. The rock climbers have shaped handholds. There are log steppers, stepping-stones, log and stump benches, a fallen tree trunk to scamper up, and a wave slide and fire pole to quickly descend.



Black Hills Alpine Rock Garden
• Kinnikinnick (Bearberry) (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
• Chokecherry (Prunus pennsylvanica)
• Rock clemantis (Clemantis tenuiloba)
• Low Larkspur (Delphinium bicolor)
• Pasqueflower (Anemone patens)
• Leafy phlox Phlox alyssifolia)
• Wild rose (Rosa arkansana)
• Yucca (Yucca glauca)
• Mountain Cliff Fern (Woodsia scopulina)
• Brittle fern (Cystopteris fragilis)
• Prairie Star (Lithophragma parviflorum)
• Aromatic aster (Aster oblongifolius)
• Rocky Mountain juniper (Juniperus scopulorum)
• Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa)
• Black Hills spruce (Picea glauca)
• Rocky Mountain fescue (Festuca saximontana)

Legacy Commons at Memorial Park was 100 percent funded by Destination Rapid City, a private group formed in 2008 to promote downtown Rapid City as a destination. Since opening in 2014, Legacy Commons has become a highly visited and popular park for Rapid City. The park is located on land managed by the Rapid City Parks and Recreation Department. The park features are accessible from the city's network of bike routes, and is adjacent to the thriving downtown core.

 

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The Children's Garden is adjacent to the 2-5 age group play area. The plantings include small and dwarf plants more in scale with small children, including Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta), purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) and red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis).



Team Members
Wyss Associates, Inc.: Landscape Architecture, Concept Design and Project Management
Destination Rapid City: Project Donor
Landscape Structures Inc.: Playground Feature Designs/Equipment
FMG Engineering: Floodplain Mapping







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November 19, 2019, 10:19 pm PDT

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