Nestled in the heart of the Fox River Valley among a collection of quiet hamlets lies the Village of Combined Locks. This residential community in Outagamie County, Wisconsin, is ideal for families and those looking for a tight-knit, safe area to call home. Since the Village does not have a central business district or main street, Memorial Park serves as the community hub. Thanks to its size and extensive amenities, both residents and visitors from surrounding towns flock to this recreation area on weekends and for special events, but growing pains were reaching a breaking point.
Though just a stone’s throw away from Memorial Park, Van Zeeland Park lacked the resources, amenities, and atmosphere to make it a destination recreation site, instead of simply a convenient overflow area. The Village of Combined Locks saw untapped potential in this outdated park and decided to transform it into a robust activity site that would be inviting, accessible, and inclusive for all visitors. This was a tall order, as the park hadn’t been updated for nearly 65 years. The revamped Van Zeeland Park needed to provide an experience on par with Memorial Park to ease location constraints and expand recreation availability to the community.
The Village of Combined Locks partnered with SEH to redesign Van Zeeland Park from the ground up. With the primary project goal to make this recreation site enjoyable for all ages and abilities, several aspects served as guideposts over the course of planning, design, and construction.
Listening to the desires of the Combined Locks community was top of mind while planning this project. Several public programming meetings were held for residents to voice their desires for specific park improvements. Consideration was given to all vested parties, including those who care for the park with first-hand knowledge of what would be most beneficial for day-to-day maintenance.
Most of these meetings were in the park itself under the old, open-air pavilion. This not only encouraged attendance from the surrounding neighborhood, but allowed people to experience the current park conditions and better visualize what they were seeing in the design renderings. Thanks to this thoughtful public engagement campaign, there was enthusiastic community buy-in as soon as the team put shovel to ground.
Enjoyment for All
Recreation options were designed to function for a wide spectrum of ages and abilities. Two separate playgrounds were created for younger and older children – offering age-appropriate apparatuses in each. Both play areas provide accessible equipment and rubber surfacing, making the spaces safer and maintenance free.
Sport courts offer options for all ages, including basketball, pickleball, and gaga ball. Ample green space is also available for larger field games such as soccer. These grassy sections benefitted from stormwater management, helping to correct areas of standing water and poor drainage. In addition to adding benches and picnic tables, there is enough space for future development, leaving the Village options for years to come.
Adding Sustainable Infrastructure
While budget remained a priority, the Village wanted to ensure the park was built to last, with sustainable products and green resources that would remain viable well into the future. The existing open-air pavilion was sparse and didn’t offer the functionality visitors were looking for. The new pavilion is completely enclosed, with garage door windows that can be opened fully to make it a true indoor-outdoor experience. Equipped with accessible restrooms, kitchen facilities, and enough space for up to 105 people within the structure itself, it is now a multi-use, multi-season space. Plus, catering trucks can park right in front of the pavilion, offering a variety of food and beverage options for private events and the public.
Making the pavilion feel like part of the neighborhood was the focus of the design, especially in architectural elements indicative of the surrounding residential properties. Prefinished cement board siding not only offers impact resistance, but the lap width provides a richer, more appealing look. Additionally, local products were used when possible, including stone quarried just 20 miles away and landscaping that features indigenous plant life.
The entryway overhang features a tongue and groove wood ceiling, and soffit LED lighting on the outside perimeter provides a lantern effect at night. Lighting indoors is activated by motion sensors, saving energy and adding to building security – as any lights triggered at night are clearly visible from outside. The restroom doors feature frosted tempered glass, offering both privacy and an additional level of safety. Extended eaves around the building have built-in gutters, eliminating extra-long downspout runs that become susceptible to premature wear and damage.
In its first summer after the redesign, the park was alive with activity. Each weekend the pavilion was booked with events that included graduation parties, weddings, and class reunions – successfully completing the transformation of Van Zeeland Park into a destination recreational hub.
Van Zeeland Park
Combined Locks, Wisconsin
Village of Combined Locks
- Indoor-outdoor pavilion with garage-style doors
- Maintenance-free rubber playground surface
- Damage-resistant soffit lighting
- Green technology including LED lighting and room sensors
- Locally sourced stone and plant material
- Prefinished cement board siding
- Tongue and groove wood ceiling entryway
- Construction management
- Stormwater management
- Landscape architecture