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Building Community Spaces: Kathryn Barnes on Partnerships and Success at IMPACT Parks

Posted on June 25, 2024

Kathryn Barnes with photo of BCBS Healthy Place Pendergrass Grand Opening

We had the pleasure of speaking with Kathryn Barnes, Director of Marketing and Client Services at IMPACT Parks, shortly after a grand opening in Dayton, TN.

Kathryn plays a pivotal role in fostering partnerships with organizations like BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, ensuring seamless coordination throughout the entire process of working with Impact Parks. 

IMPACT Park’s dedication to serving all stakeholders well is at the core of their mission to deliver successful projects. This commitment entails meticulous planning, clear communication, and proactive problem-solving to meet the diverse needs and expectations of communities, csr funders, and project teams alike. Kathryn's leadership ensures that every detail, from initial concept to final unveiling, aligns with our vision of creating vibrant and inclusive public spaces.

Dayton Pendergrass Ribbon Cutting

Q: Kathryn, what's the best part of seeing projects like BlueCross Healthy Place at Pendergrass Park come to life?
A: The best part about my job is working closely with all the incredible groups involved in projects like this - the city, the funders, local community members, our design team, and our construction crew. Being so deeply involved in something makes me feel like I'm truly a part of the communities we work with. 

When I come to grand openings, and I see the moms smiling and laughing with their kids, grandparents playing with their grandkids, groups of friends laughing and socializing … I can’t help but get emotional. Watching a 4-year-old explore an area specifically designed for her age and abilities, knowing she’ll get to enjoy even more in the coming years—the bigger playground, the splash pad, the fitness equipment—is incredibly rewarding. She will have the chance to grow up, challenge herself, and explore at this park. Being part of someone’s core life memories—how COOL is that?!

Pendergrass Dayton Playground
Q: Who is involved in making project dreams become reality? 
A: Communities are where it all starts. But sometimes, they lack the resources to turn their dreams into reality. That's where partners come in, funding these aspirations and driving real change through designing and building these spaces. Our team at IMPACT Parks is part of creating the design, building the park, and celebrating the opening - together with the communities and the funders.

Take projects like the one in Dayton, for example. Creating a new park involves lots of people. It's crucial to hear what the community wants. Our design team listens and then creates visuals to show them what their dream could look like.  CSR Funders like BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee play a big role by investing in these dreams. Thanks to their support, cities all over the state now have amazing parks for everyone to enjoy, no matter their age or ability.

Pendergrass Dayton Playground Overview

Q: Walk us through the project logistics with the planning team for the Pendergrass Park project. 

A: The planning team for Pendergrass Park included our landscape architect team, construction management team, the city of Dayton (Mayor, City Manager, Parks and Recreation, Utilities, and maintenance), The BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Foundation, and several meetings with our design team and the community to make the space the best design for the people of Dayton.
The project first started when the City of Dayton reached out to our team to start designing the space to include in their submission for the BlueCross Healthy Place application. Once BlueCross saw the need, and the vision, they contacted us to begin the official process of designing and creating a BlueCross Healthy Place.
Our design and construction management team went to work, taking the original design and site plans to a final design and construction set. Once we captured what could be built within the budget, we met with the city, the funder, and our team to make sure everyone was happy with the final design. The city was amazing to work with and brought in their talent and resources to help with site work. They removed their old equipment and took our construction drawings to get the site level prior to our team mobilizing.
To kick off the construction work for this beloved park, we broke ground in the summer of 2023. We quickly worked over the next 9 months to get the playground, restroom, splash pad, swings, net climbers, greenspace, pavilions, and walking paths installed. The city came in to repave the parking lot and clean up the surrounding areas. We know how important Grand Openings can be and had crews pressure washing, laying sod, and getting the site in perfect state to gift it back to the community to enjoy.
In April of 2024, we cut the ribbon and opened the park to hundreds of children and adults. We’ve been so thrilled to hear stories and feedback on how great the new park is and we know it will be enjoyed for many generations.
In fact, our work doesn’t stop once the ribbon is cut. We partner with the Data Service Lab at PlayCore’s Center for Outreach, Research and Education to evaluate park usage through data collection and storytelling, which is part of their National Demonstration Site (NDS) program. The NDS evidence-based model helps demonstrate the number, frequency, and demographics of visitors, measure levels of physical activity, other important data to share and showcase site outcomes which we share with the funder to show the impact this destination has on the community.

BlueCross BlueShield Pendergrass Playground

Q: What strategies do you use to keep the project running on track during the process?
A: Communication is KEY. Our team is in constant communication with subs, community members, and the funders. We schedule weekly touch points with all stakeholders. Our construction team lives and breathes in our project management tool that is able to keep all of the moving pieces in order. In addition, we send weekly reports out on progress, changes, or delays. This ensures all parties are aware of everything that goes on at the site level, without having to be there or on each call with subs. We keep it as simple as possible, and have a great process set up to communicate project updates.


Construction Crew working on Pendergrass playground
Q: How do you manage relationships with vendors and partners to ensure a smooth execution of the project?
A: As a PlayCore Collaborative, we are able to partner with a handful of manufacturers, installers, and subs that we have worked with for 90+ years. Building trust and setting expectations for quality is imperative to the work we get to do every day.
Our construction team does a great job working directly with each vendor to coordinate schedules to ensure we are on budget and within our timeline.
I have the privilege of building relationships with our partners beyond just a business transaction. I am passionate about connecting with our partners on a personal level and understanding what success means to them. I want our partners to know we have their best interest in place and build on that trust. When we are able to work with partners on multiple projects, and year over year that relationship continues to evolve, resulting in new thoughts, strategies, and creative ideas.  

IMPACT Parks and BCBS team photo at pendergrass park grand opening

Q: Can we see the before and after highlights of Pendergrass Park?
A: Sure – check out this video that shows construction shots and does a great job showcasing this beautiful park.


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