The City of Easton is home to sixteen pocket parks nestled within the city grid. Seven of these, located in the dense, residential neighborhoods of the West Ward and South Side, were prioritized for revitalization as part of the Easton Pocket Parks Vision Plan. Their scales range in size from that of a typical townhome lot at just under 4,000 SF to partial blocks upward of 26,000 SF. A strong upfront focus on outreach and engagement laid the groundwork for designs directly informed by the desires and needs of the community.
With the project unfolding during the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis in 2020, traditional planning and engagement strategies were re-imagined and implemented in ways that kept public health at the fore while bringing a pop of color and joy into a dark time. The Pinwheels in the Park ephemeral art installation kickstarted project outreach and was followed by neighborhood “pop-in” listening sessions hosted at each park. These hyper-local, mini meetings gathered valuable feedback through project surveys, children’s activity sheets, and casual conversations between residents and the planning team.
During one community listening session at Nesquehoning Street Park, a resident communicated that he’d heard from elders while growing up that the Nesquehoning site was at one time an African American cemetery. While the City of Easton had not been aware of its existence, Omnes’ follow-up research confirmed that the Nesquehoning parcel is the historic location of a cemetery for African American people dating to at least the 1870s – a re-identification spurring additional research, a ground-penetrating RADAR study, and recommendations for a process that will acknowledge the site’s history and honor those interred there.
The Easton Pocket Parks Vision Plan was developed through a partnership with the City of Easton and the West Ward Community Initiative and was funded by a grant awarded to the city by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources 2018 Community Conservation Partnerships Program. An accompanying project website designed by Omnes served as a bi-lingual hub of engagement for the Vision Plan, with online surveys, park-specific information, immersive photospheres, inspiration ideas, contests and more. The project website was recognized by a 2021 PA-DE ASLA Professional Merit Award in the category of Communications.