Today’s Parks: Sustainability, Conserving Water and Inclusive Play For Everybody

Haydon marks 20 years of building parks.



When Michael Rhode was a kid, a family friend owned a landscape company.

“I was pretty ambitious, wanted to make some money, so I started working for the company in the summers at age 13,” he said. “I worked every spring break, every winter break, all summer long as a spare set of hands. Knowing the owner, I got a lot of additional training that most people wouldn’t get. I got to work with customers.”

Michael is Vice President of Operations at Earthscapes, the landscaping division of Haydon Companies. This year, Haydon marks 20 years of building parks which include sprawling fields, vibrant indoor/outdoor facilities, entertainment complexes, fishing lakes, sports courts, landscaping, roadway and utility work.

“We’re a full-service, construction company,” Michael said. “We do a lot of different types of projects. We’re capable of doing 95 percent of our work in house. We deliver a really good product.”

All-In-One Park Construction Solutions

Haydon provides all-in-one construction solutions including Building (Commercial), Heavy Civil, Preconstruction, Landscape, and Building Information Modeling. And the company leverages this wide-ranging expertise when building parks.

“It has helped us tremendously in our parks projects for a number of reasons,” he said. “Knowing current market conditions and material lead times and having a staff to be able to perform says a lot. We will not overcommit ourselves to where we are making promises we can’t deliver on. We are committed to our projects and staffing and schedule. The advantage of having Earthscapes in house at Haydon is it offers another level of service to our clients. We’re able to control costs internally that other people can’t when you sub out to a third party. We’re able to maintain our schedule because we’re working within our team to navigate challenges from early on in the project from preconstruction services all the way to the end of the project.”

Sustainability and conserving water are significant focuses in the forefront of the landscaping industry.

Sustainable Park Solutions

“One of the first questions we ask is, ‘What is our water source?’” Michael said. “Is it city water? Is it reclaimed water? Are we building a lake? What are our control systems? Are we building weather stations? Are we using satellite weather information that’s updated immediately or several times throughout the day to let the controllers make adjustments based on current weather data? That has been a big focus on many of our projects the last several years, utilizing the technology that’s out there. Technology has vastly improved. We’re seeing good results and we’re using a lot less water.

This is especially important in Arizona’s climate.

“We’re coming out of this record-breaking heat,” he said. “We’re starting to see some plant material that we’ve considered sustainable for a long, long time, but we’re seeing plants and trees dying. We’re going to be looking at what plants and grasses survive and thrive in this. That’s one of the biggest challenges going forward.”

Inclusive Play Solutions

There’s also more focus on inclusive play for everybody at parks.

“That’s a dynamic shift in the industry in the last 10 to 15 years,” Michael said. “We bring in surfaces that are wheelchair accessible, that are accessible on crutches. We’ve got swing sets in parks that have a different type of swing so they can get somebody onto the swing who would not be able to swing on a normal swing set. It gives everybody the chance to use that facility.”

Michael is looking toward the future. However, he hasn’t forgotten the past after working in the landscaping business nearly four decades.

“I like going back and visiting our projects years back and seeing them,” he said. “We’ve done some really great projects.”

Learn more about Haydon’s Parks & Recreation & Community projects at