Landscape architecture turns blight into beauty

Landscape architecture turns blight into beauty

There are so many golf courses in Florida, you’d think they just pop out of the ground by themselves.

But when a golf course is left untended, it quickly becomes apparent that nature had other ideas for that space.

The grass becomes overgrown, the sand traps fill with weeds, and the cart paths crack and crumble. The course at the Admiral Lehigh Golf Resort, built in 1960, was a dismal-looking example of this sort of decline by the end of the last decade, when it was abandoned during the recession.

Now the space is alive again, and as World Landscape Architecture Month readies for its grand finale, it’s a perfect time to celebrate Lehigh Acres Trailhead Park, which will celebrate its fifth anniversary this year.

EnSite provided the landscape architecture for the park, as well as civil engineering and assistance with design and permitting. The idea was to do more than just simply recover the lost aesthetics. The project created a sustainable destination that preserves the environment, attracts visitors and raises the value of surrounding properties.

It features a half-mile paved multiuse trail that surrounds an open space that includes new rain gardens — manmade depressions in the land — that collect rainwater and filter it to limit harmful runoff into the nearby Able Canal.

Still, the park retains much of the original topography of the course. The elevation changes originally created for berms, greens and bunkers were preserved to cut down on the need for heavy construction equipment that drive up costs and expend fossil fuels.

Instead of the Bermuda grass that was used on the golf course, which required constant maintenance, the 18,000 grasses and wildflowers in the open space need only be watered after long dry spells.

Perhaps the greatest testament to efficiency and sustainability is the decking on the park’s boardwalk and observation area, which contains recycled plastics from discarded objects like milk jugs and detergent containers.

The park is meant to eventually become the beginning of a greenway that connects to Lehigh Acres Community Park and Harns Marsh. So, there will be more opportunities to find ways to use land as effectively as possible for people, planet and profit.

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