Esther Short Park Playground

Project Completed: April 29, 2023

City of Vancouver Parks & Recreation

Esther Short Park is in the oldest public square in Washington and has historically played a vital role in the community—a role that continues today. The City of Vancouver’s Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services Department selected the park for a new play area as part of its Project Play initiative because of the park’s popularity, historical importance and key downtown location, and aging equipment.  

Our project team worked extensively with equipment suppliers, Harper’s Playground, and the Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services Department to ensure the new layout is welcoming to all ages and abilities, maximizing play potential while working to preserve the adjacent existing mature Douglas-fir trees, historic character, and circulation and event spaces. The improvements reimagine the playground from a new perspective compared to the traditional playground experience. Landforms, accessible surfacing, social interaction features, and non-scripted play opportunities invite people of all ages and abilities to thrive together through play. Because when it comes to designing community spaces, every person should be considered.


Our landscape architecture team led this project and provided master planning for the playground updates. After a preliminary site analysis and playground concepts, we assisted the City with its public outreach to the community. Taking place at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the community outreach program required creative thinking, and we provided interactive digital plans that allowed community members to provide input without leaving their homes. We listened to the feedback and then collaborated with City staff to address safety and maintenance concerns while providing an inclusive approach to play. The combined project area expands the current playground footprint to 17,000 square feet to better serve demand, contain circulation paths, and provide play and social gathering areas, emphasizing physically, socially, and emotionally inviting spaces. The next phase of the project, scheduled for completion in early 2024, includes safer, updated restroom facilities and increased pedestrian connections to the park’s rose garden.  


Our civil engineering team provided designs for the newly installed synthetic play turf, pedestrian connections, and stormwater plans.   

During the design process, our team led conversations with the turf supplier and City Engineering Services Department to ensure the accessible synthetic play turf met current state stormwater management requirements and City maintenance best practices. Our proactive approach avoided additional stormwater treatment and the need for extensive stormwater facilities and maximized the playable footprint.


Our land surveying team collaborated with our design team during the master-planning phase to provide quality surveys, which included surveys of existing trees, utilities, hardscaping, irrigation components, building corners, stormwater lines, and approximate property boundary, in addition to title review to identify existing easements and construction staking.


Our arborist team helped preserve large existing Douglas-fir trees that were a key asset to the design of this 17,000-square-foot park by providing guidance and oversight during design and construction.