Suining South Riverfront Park
Landscape Performance Benefits
- Increases the time stormwater takes to reach the Fujiang River via sheet flow from an estimated 310 seconds to 989 seconds for a 2-year, 24-hour storm in the South Plaza.
- Increases flood storage capacity by approximately 1.3 million gallons, equivalent to about 2 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
- Increased ecological quality as demonstrated by a Reciprocal Simpson Index value of 6.25 on average in the wetland area, as compared to a value of 1.09 for a nearby area that resembles the site prior to construction. The more urban area of the site increased its Reciprocal Simpson Index value from 1.09 to 2.09, even with a formal planting style.
- Provides habitat for wildlife and migratory bird species including black-headed gull, mallard, barn swallow, Siberian white crane, white-browed laughingthrush, and little egret, as observed on-site and described in local media reports. These species were not commonly seen in the area before park’s construction.
- Reduces experienced temperatures within the park by 4°F on average on sunny summer afternoons, as compared to a nearby area that resembles the site before construction. Of 60 surveyed park visitors, 78% reported satisfaction with the temperature and microclimate in the park.
- Sequesters an estimated 84 tons of atmospheric carbon annually in 2,521 newly-planted trees and over 8,000 newly-planted shrubs, equivalent to the annual emissions of about 17 single passenger vehicles. Trees and shrubs are projected to sequester approximately 9,670 tons of atmospheric carbon over the next 20 years.
- Attracts over 1,200 visitors as observed on a typical Saturday in the summertime, with the most visitors during the morning and evening, and at least 800 visitors on a typical Sunday in early spring, with the most visitors in the early and late afternoon.
- Provides a setting for at least 30 types of cultural and recreational activities with 13 types of multi-generational interactions.
- Promotes spending time outdoors, with 75% of 60 surveyed visitors reporting that they spend more time outside after the park’s opening. 49% of 49 surveyed visitors report visiting 2-3 times per week.
- Facilitates a closer human-nature relationship and sense of well-being, with 100% of 49 surveyed visitors reporting that the park brings people closer to nature and 90% of 60 surveyed visitors reporting that the park provides enjoyment and relaxation.
- Improved perceived nighttime safety on site, with 58% of 60 surveyed visitors agreeing that the new lighting (a 27% increase in lighted area) makes them feel safe and comfortable.
- Increases scenic value index scores for the Suining waterfront from 4.6 to 46.8 for select views when comparing before and after the park’s construction. Additionally, 98% of 60 surveyed visitors reported an improved perception of the aesthetic quality of the riverfront.
- Increases green space per capita from 28 sf to 68 sf per person and provides recreational opportunities and green space access for estimated 50,200 potential visitors within a 0.6-mile walking distance.
- Represents an icon for the city’s recreational center, as evidenced by its mention 11 times by locally notable social media content creators as of 2022. 578 social media posts have used scenes in the park for video backgrounds.
- Contributed to an average increase in housing price of 29.8% on average from 2017 to 2019 among 2 randomly selected real estate developments within a 5-minute walk of the park, compared with an average increase of 4.8% from 2017 to 2019 among 2 randomly selected comparable real estate developments elsewhere in Suining City.
- Encourages local business establishment, with 73% of the 11 stores within a 10-minute walk of the park opening after park construction was complete.
At a Glance
ECOLAND Planning and Design Corp.
Former Land Use
Binjiang South Road
Suining Shi, Sichuan Sheng 629000, China
45 acres (entire development 117 acres)
Approximately $45 million (entire 117 acres)
Suining South Riverfront Park is located along a 2-mile stretch of river adjacent to a growing urban district in Suining City, Sichuan Province, China. Before 2017, the riverbank featured an unattractive concrete bulkhead with outdated hydraulic engineering structures that provided no value for the community other than flood control. By transforming the concrete bulkhead into a pedestrian-friendly urban riparian area, this 45-acre portion of a larger 115-acre development aims to promote social rejuvenation, healthy lifestyles, and recreational opportunities for a densely populated urban district. With over a hundred plant species, riparian boardwalks, viewing pavilions, and walking paths, visitors are able to interact with water features and engage in activities that improve both physical and mental health. The park also serves as a pilot project for Suining’s green riverfront infrastructure initiative. Adaptive reuse of the existing concrete bulkhead, combined with an intricate system of wetlands, ponds, and islands in the northeast area of the park, transformed this highly engineered system into an ecologically functioning park that provides aquatic habitat and strengthens ecological resilience.
- A 5.6-mile continuous walking belt connects the west and east ends of the park, passing through different areas including the boating harbor, urban plazas, pocket parks, terraced rain gardens, open lawns, boardwalks of different heights, and habitat islands.
- The site has 11 acres of newly created wetland habitat and 1,100 meters of boardwalk. Viewing decks over the water offer scenic views and more ways to engage with the river than offered by the previous concrete bulkhead.
- An intricate lagoon system of wetlands, islands, and ponds in the northwest part of the park offers increased water storage and ecological resilience and may improve water quality. 3 ponds feed into one another from upstream to downstream, each with specific aquatic plants to filter runoff pollutants, facilitate nutrition absorption, and assimilate organic matter. The islands were created from cut material from the excavated ponds.
- The site has 48,544 individual plants representing 101 species, 71% of which are native. The planting palette features tree species native to Sichuan province such as camphor tree (Cinnamomum camphora), Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinensis), weeping willow (Salix babylonica), and sweet osmanthus (Osmanthus fragrans).
- Various species of wetland plants were installed to enhance wildlife habitat and improve views. Aquatic plants including species of water lily (Nymphaea spp.), purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), and Chinese silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis) are native to the region and support scenic areas for passive recreational activities such as nature observation, picnicking, and photography. The plants growing in the emergent zones would survive a 100-year flood even if totally submerged.
- A series of additional stormwater management techniques were retrofitted in hardscape areas of the bulkhead, including a terraced landscape in the south of the park that captures and filters runoff collected from the pedestrian pathways in the upper areas of the park. The original riverfront bank was preserved in order to maintain flood protection.
- A lighting system with 183 light fixtures support evening use of the park. A “floating reflection river” along the urban portion of the park is interactive and can be used at night.
- The site is connected to major city transportation routes and river corridors. There are 11 primary entrances distributed every 800 meters and secondary entrances every 250 to 300 meters, with 19 entrances in total. Wayfinding elements lead visitors and vehicles through the park. Parking lots are located every 500 meters to accommodate about 1,000 vehicles.
- The upper level of the narrow section of the park atop the bulkhead is used for multiple recreational activities with a half-mile running track, fitness zones, 6 outlook pavilions, a reflective pool, and 11 landscape nodes.
- 136,000 sf of hardscape at the south entrance provides open space and a shaded seating area that welcomes visitors from the street into the park. Most seating elements are made of wood and/or concrete with light strips implemented around the seats and along the road to allow for social interaction in the evening. Benches provide resting areas for all visitors, especially families with children and the elderly.
- Paving materials identical to the surrounding area are located at the edges of the park to connect with the city and provide visual consistency.
- Provide a verdant space adjacent to the riverfront that accommodates social interaction including outdoor events, recreational activities, and daily enjoyment.
- Re-introduce a river, wetland, and lagoon system that embraces the seasonal flooding cycle of the river and allows for some natural riverine processes to occur atop the bulkheaded concrete shoreline.
- Restore ecological function and increase native vegetation to promote biodiversity.
- Function as a stormwater management tool to control urban runoff and flash floods, slow the flow of stormwater, and serve as a natural filter for runoff between the urban areas and the natural river body.
- Increase the aesthetic value of the riverfront.
- Offer residents a place for environmental education.
- Due to the project going over budget, the middle part of the site was not built as originally designed and instead was established as an open area. This change was ultimately successful as local residents have more flexibility to use the area in a variety of ways. In spring, it becomes a popular destination for flying kites.
- Some of the design ideas were not carried out exactly following the proposals of the designers due to the multidisciplinary collaboration with stakeholders. For example, the Shengping Island Harbor ended up retaining its original state, rather than being completely redesigned as proposed by designers, in order to maintain boarding safety and other requirements for existing ferries and boats. The areas of the site that were kept as-is have ultimately become well-loved by residents as sites of old memories.
- Voluntary ecological performance measurements conducted by third parties (such as community groups or citizen scientists) are in general very lacking in Suining City and similarly sized cities in China. For example, there are no public records on the presence of birds and other wildlife in recent years for Suining City. More citizen science involvement would promote more environmental engagement and a better understanding of local biodiversity.
Drainage/Erosion: Gudi Technology Co., Ltd.
Lumber/Decking/Edging: Taohuajiang Bamboo Technology Co., Ltd.
Structures: Chongqing Yuxi Gardens Group Co., Ltd.
Lighting: Dongguan Xingrui Lighting Co., Ltd.
Other: Chongqing Iron and Steel Group Construction Engineering Co., Ltd.
Other: Chongqing Wire and Cable Co., Ltd.
Client: Suining Economic and Technological Development District
Landscape Architect: Ecoland Planning and Design Corp. (lead)
Landscape Architect: Sichuan Provincial Architectural Design and Research Institute Co., LTD.
Construction Contractor: Chongqing Yuxi Gardens Group Co., LTD and MCC Communication Construction Group Co., LTD.
Role of the Landscape Architect
The team of landscape architects was responsible for all design aspects of the project including site analysis, site design, planting design, grading, pavement selection, material selection, construction documents, and architectural design. They worked closely with the client and local contractors to lead design coordination and communication.
Case Study Prepared By
Research Fellow: Yiwei Huang, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture, Purdue University
Research Assistant: Wanting Zhang, Undergraduate Student, Purdue University
Research Assistant: Yahan You, Undergraduate Student, Purdue University
Firm Liaison: Jenny Tang, Principal, ECOLAND Planning and Design Corp.
Huang, Yiwei, Yahan You, and Wanting Zhang. “Suining South Riverfront Park.” Landscape Performance Series, Landscape Architecture Foundation, 2022. https://doi.org/10.31353/cs1860