Savannah’s Forsyth Park, originally established in 1841, is the crown jewel of the City and one of the oldest municipal parks in the country. In 2020, Savannah’s Trustees Garden Club (TGC), began the process of developing the first ever Master Plan for Forsyth Park and, following significant fundraising, commissioned NBW to lead the effort. The recently completed Forsyth Park Master Plan creates a comprehensive guide for the preservation of the park while allowing the space to evolve programmatically and operationally to meet the growing needs of the public.
Over several decades, the park’s historic assets and arboretum-quality tree canopy have been challenged with year-round intensive and increased use. To address this need, NBW led a thoughtful master planning effort to ensure the park’s ability to accommodate increasing visitorship, active and passive recreation, community gatherings, and a broad range of events without compromising its iconic Live Oak canopy. The Forsyth Park Master Plan is the result of a two-year process of listening, analyzing, drawing, presenting, and synthesizing input directly from the community and collaborators and will guide the inclusive use and stewardship of Forsyth Park for decades to come.
The planning effort began with a thorough period of research and discovery in order for the design team to understand the complex cultural history of the park and its place in the surrounding community. The design team conducted in-depth research into the cultural and ecological history of the site, which ground design recommendations in an authentic sense of place. This phase also laid the groundwork for a robust engagement process in an effort to gain insight into the community’s priorities for the future of the park. Engagement with the public was key to the master planning process and continued for the duration of planning and design, utilizing broad public input to ensure the final Master Plan was reflective of the needs and interests of the community that uses, tends, and stewards Forsyth Park.
In the final Master Plan, the park maintains its original framework and historic character with a few strategic interventions. All design decisions prioritize the site's historical integrity, the ecological well-being of the storied Live Oak canopy, and the community's needs as discovered through an extensive engagement process. The design centers on four major ideas:
- Maintaining the aesthetic and historical integrity of the northern end of the park while providing key, subtle enhancements such as improved lighting and pavement
- Enhancing circulation around the perimeter of the park through a new multi-use path with designated cycling and pedestrian lanes to ensure safety for a variety of users
- Preserving the open lawns of the park for active and passive recreation, gathering, and events such as the weekly farmers’ market
- Incorporating programming for children and families more cohesively and consistently throughout the park
The success of the master planning process was a direct result of the close collaboration between NBW and the client, city staff and elected officials, numerous public and private collaborators, and, most importantly, the collective vision of Savannah’s engaged community members.
Collaborators: Skeo Solutions, Ethos Preservation, Hussey Gay Bell, and Trustees' Garden Club