Foote’s Pond Wood is a 14-acre natural public park project spearheaded by a local parent who now heads the Environmental Commission. The park reconnects the community with a historically rich plot of land, and provides a link to an adjacent elementary school, synagogue, and Jesuit retreat. The program was to rehabilitate the site for educational and contemplative use without disturbing the essence of the place. The site is covered with an 80-year old woodlot, and a three-acre pond occupying one end.
Foote’s Pond Wood is a new fourteen-acre public park in Morristown New Jersey. The park reconnects the community with a historically rich, but neglected, plot of land consisting of an eighty year-old wood lot and four-acre pond and wetland, and provides a link to an adjacent elementary school, synagogue and Jesuit retreat. The program is to rehabilitate the site for education and contemplative uses without disturbing the essence of the place. The first phase of construction concluded in Autumn 2006.
The project consists of a series of distinct paths and interventions. Five guiding principles were used to focus the designs of the interventions: history, light, temporal change, spatial contrast, and observation. There are two distinct places of experience here – the watery one of the pond/marsh/creeks, and the forest – hence the new name, “Foote’s Pond Wood”. The thirty-year old name for the park had been Foote’s Pond – emphasizing the town’s fixation on the pond only. Our design included a name change as a primary move to recognize an aspect of the park that had long been ignored – the wood. This new name is recognized in the renewed fireplace that also acts as a sign to the street.
The pond path is an anecdotal route that follows the much larger historical perimeter of the pond (now buried in the forest). It catches incidents along its way including old specimen trees, a bridge overlooking the dam, vernal ponds (the result of old dredging), a phragmites bouquet, a metal grilled wetland walk, and a sequence of informal classrooms including the resting tree room which focuses on a living but horizontal tree, the crackling room – an intensely noisy forest floor or the outdoor classroom which like a long measuring stick, marks the transition from lawn to marsh to open water. This path crosses the winding creek with cor-ten plank bridges.
The dirt paths in the forest are infinite, criss-crossing, spontaneous and unguided – a condition afforded by the overabundant resident deer population. Interventions occur between paths or make for personal destinations. A Conversation of Trees is a sample of how uses can coincide – intimate seating is made only where trees have grown close enough to have an intimate conversation. A meeting place is made and an ecological fact is demonstrated. The panoramic view of the forest is contrasted with the vertical view of the forest from the intimate wooden hammocks. Here too one can measure how trees grow in the forest by the measure of your body.
Forest clearings (due to natural attrition) are circumscribed by a communal bench encouraging observation of the changes in the forest floor due to the holes in the tree canopy. The clear tube regeneration garden makes graphic the condition that is needed to grow new trees in a deer-infested forest. Joined together, the communal bench and clear tube regeneration garden create a Petri dish to allow the community to “watch the trees grow”.