Behind the Design at the Fairgrounds ... “Contouring the Prairie Land”

From a gradual sloping 40-acre site, to a seemingly random rise and fall of ground swells, the park site was intentionally contoured as a design element.  Swales, berms, mesa-top hills, peaks, canyons and ridge-top expanses provide areas equivalent to secret gardens, choreographed views with window-like peeks into special areas, and natural stadium-like viewing from hillsides.

The most orchestrated view is found at the western-most entry where the eye is led across the roundabout, skimming the lower pond, up to the hilltop windmill, and terminating at the water tower with blue skies beyond.  It’s not a simple ‘Point A to Point B’ in its design; rather, it’s a flowing view along the contouring ground forms. The entry experience is a progression of glimpses into the site gradually bringing the visitor from their life outside the site to a unique fairgrounds experience.

The contouring also minimizes the frequent harsh winds prevalent on the high plains prairieland. In fact, the initial site visit conversation with Jim Abendschan, former fairgrounds manager, confirmed the constant impact:

Design Concepts: “So Jim, is the wind always blowing out here?”

Jim: “Well . . . yes, if it’s not blowing from the north, it’s blowing from the south, east or west.”

Behind the Design at The Park at Arapahoe Fairgrounds . . . “Snippets of beauty replace utilitarian forms.”

The grand opening of The Park at Arapahoe Fairgrounds is happening Saturday, June 25, 2016 and will be a giant celebration mimicking a mini-fair.  The park is just one of the new offerings at the fairgrounds but it is chalk full of design features honoring the history and heritage of the open prairieland homestead.  Here is one of the behind the design stories about the seemingly small and overlooked water control systems.

Controlling Water

Water is on of the most important assets for rancher and farmer.  The ability to access it and to use it for sustenance dictates how agricultural and ranching assets are laid out.  Accessing ground water by way of wells and controlling rainwater support the irrigation. 

At The Park at Arapahoe Fairgrounds, water is a central feature.  It is the primary character in stories of the stream, windmills, ponds, and water runoff systems.

Forebay Sedimentation Basin

The forebay sedimentation basin is designed beyond a utilitarian need to direct and dissipate the flow of water.  Rather than a typical urban concrete eyesore, here the basin is treated as a special element complementing the natural environment with natural-looking boulders and a sand-filled bed to organize sediment running through the water corridor.  This design hints to what the original homesteaders might have used in 1905, as these natural materials might have been all that was available.

Not Your Standard Drainage Chases

Fitting the natural setting, drainage chases are small snippets of design interpretation. Using logs and stones (versus the typically-used PVC pipes), these systems for controlling the flow of water each have a unique personality fitting perfectly within the context of an historic homestead.