Renovations at Harbin Park to include an overlook pavilion, outer perimeter trail, new

By Staff Report

Fairfield’s largest park is getting a makeover. Thousands visit Harbin Park each
year, which is known for its snow-sledding hills, and popular events such as Red, White
& Kaboom!

Harbin Park in Fairfield Ohio is getting a major makeover starting in 2020.

“The updates planned for Harbin Park will refresh and make more vibrant the
City’s most visited neighborhood park,” said City Manager Mark Wendling.
The renovation of Harbin Park will include improvements to the 160-plus acre
City park located off of Pleasant Avenue/U.S.127 at the end of Hunter Road.

“This is an exciting time for both the City and the department as we enter our 65 th
anniversary as an organization. What a better way to celebrate than with the
development and enhancement of our wonderful amenities for our residents” said
Tiphanie Howard, CPRP, director of the Parks & Recreation Department for the City of

The existing park features an 18-hole disc golf course, extensive mountain bike
trails, tennis courts, playground, picnic shelters, a paved multi-use trail, and a sledding

A concept plan has been developed by the City's consultant, Brandsetter Carroll,
Inc., with input from public meetings. The multi-year project has four distinct phases and
Phase 1 is already underway. Improvements will be scheduled over a multi-year
timeframe and be included in the City's long-term budgeting process.

We talked to Howard, the City’s park director, in a Q & A to find out more about the renovations that will take place at Harbin Park.

Q: Can you give us an overview of the project and the timeline? How much will
the renovations cost?
A: This multi-phased, multi-year project has 4 distinct phases that will focus on
individual and unique areas of the park. The concept for each phase includes:
– Phase 1 (began engineering and design this past summer): Addition of an outer
perimeter trail, or “south loop,” to connect neighboring communities, and
improvements to the overlook area that will include a pavilion and new restrooms
– Phase 2: Improvements to the upper, or central, picnic area that will include a
mountain bike trailhead for the orange loop, new picnic shelters, and a nature
– Phase 3: Improvements to the lower, or southern, picnic area and sports fields
that will include new shelters, restrooms, and playground.
– Phase 4: Updates to the disc golf course and the main entrance to potentially
include gateway signage and a roundabout.

We are, so far, budgeted out to 2023 with our CIP for the first two phases at a projected
cost of $2.5M. In the end, the entire park was built in the 1970s.

Q: Can you walk us through the process to date?

A: In 2014, the City retained the services of the Indiana University/Eppely Institute for
Parks and Public Lands, to conduct a Comprehensive Parks and Recreation Master
Plan and Needs Assessment. Through this practice, it became evident that the
community was placing a high value on updating Harbin Park infrastructure and adding
new amenities to enhance the quality of life. Answering the call of our community, staff
began the process of engaging the services of a park planner, Brandstetter-Carroll, to
conduct a conceptual design of the park in 2015. The scope of the conceptual project
– Three (3) public input meetings; two meetings to solicit public input from citizens
and/or user groups and one input meeting to review conceptual design draft with
City Council/Parks and Recreation Board.
– Various meetings with the City team.
– Detailed plan to provide pedestrian and/or bicycle connectivity to various
adjacent neighborhoods; along with a perimeter paved bike/hike path plan.
– Recommendations for parking, ingress/egress of the park, re-purposing of farm barn
and ranger building, shelter house renovations, signage, existing site amenities,
future site amenities, etc.
– Detailed site plan to encompass all design and landscape elements.
– Construction cost estimates (based upon 2016 dollars).
– Recommendations regarding phasing of purposed renovation/development;
recommendations for grant sources to accomplish specific project elements;
along with separate costs to prepare/submit grants on behalf of the city.
In 2017, planning began on Phase 1 with the finalization of the plans occurring at the
end of 2018.
As far as the contractor for the perimeter trail, the lowest bidder for the project was Mt.
Pleasant Blacktopping.  Our hope is to “officially” award the project to the lowest bidder
at the beginning of the new year to break ground by spring.

Q: Why did the City feel this project is important/needed?
A: As mentioned, it became evident that the community was placing a high value on
updating the Harbin Park infrastructure and adding new amenities to enhance the
quality of life. We see value in answering the call of our community. The goals of the
park updates included:
– Connectivity to neighboring communities
– Upgrading facilities
– Improving user experience
– Maintaining a natural environment
– Designing a safer environment

Q: What work will be done specifically in 2020?

A: Phase 1 will begin with the installation of the southern perimeter trail and finalizing
the design for the overlook area. The goal is to break ground on the overlook area mid-
to-late summer, pending any construction challenges.

Q: We understand this is a multi-year plan, when will each of the stages/phases
be completed?
A: The goal is to move from concept to design for each phase once the previous phase
is nearing completion. For example, Once Phase 1 is nearing completion, our goal is to
already be in the engineering and design portion of Phase 2. We will be moving as
swiftly as we can, but as we know, construction is a difficult challenge considering
weather and any unforeseen issues that may arise.

Q: How much usage does the park get on a regular basis?
A: While this does not calculate actual visitors, we conducted a traffic study to indicate
how much vehicular traffic we receive. The thought was that we could get at least an
estimate of how much vehicular traffic, then we would have a snapshot of the level of
utilization from this aspect. During the month of June, there were 13,419 vehicles that
entered the park (which averages out to 3,355 vehicles per week). Of course, this only
calculates vehicles, not actual people, when considering carload as well as walkable
visitors for the nearby neighborhoods. Considering the results of the traffic study, staff
estimates that the park sees roughly 20,000 to 30,000 visitors per month during peak

Start of the Cyclocross in Harbin Park. Harbin Park is getting a major makeover starting in 2020.

Q: Tell us about some of the benefits to residents?
A: The benefits of parks in communities, in general, are endless. The feather in our cap
as a community is that Harbin Park is a regional draw for events such as Cyclocross
and the British Car show. The updates will enhance the experience of our residents
and will enable us to continue the “tourism” trade for our local businesses.

Q: Why would you encourage residents to take advantage of the parks in the
A: Again, I go back to the fact that the benefits are endless. Our parks are a place
where memories are made, where marriages are made stronger by weekly walks,
where you can decompress and relax, where you can improve your health, and the list
goes on. But the greatest benefit of using the park is unstructured outdoor play.
Unstructured outdoor play has a multitude of benefits that have been scientifically
proven, specifically, for kids:
– It is known that children are in need of more physical activity. Many sources agree
that today’s children are too sedentary, specifically; they are so attached to their
screens, devices, and smartphones.

– In addition to 20 – 30 minutes of daily structured physical activity, children should
get at least 60 minutes of unstructured physical activity daily, and more is even
– Unstructured outdoor play offers opportunities to develop executive function
skills. Executive function skills have been compared to an air-traffic control
system in each of our bodies. These essential life skills help us remember
information, filter out distractions, switch gears when needed, and sustain focus
over time (according to Harvard University Center on the Developing Child,

– Unstructured outdoor play promotes imaginary play, which helps develop these
executive function skills. Children develop rules for the imaginary scenarios they
create, remember and try out complex ideas, apply the rules to the scenarios as
they go along, and regulate each other behavior. Given the time, children can
extend imaginary play for hours.

– Another benefit of unstructured play is the enhancement of social skills. There
are many different skills children learn from unstructured activities. Children who
have opportunities to work together with their peers towards a goal learn
friendship skills such as teamwork, problem-solving, care and cooperation, all
critical skills for school and life.