Documenting City and Town Parks

Tower Grove Park, Sailboat Pond, View looking north between balustrades, Saint Louis, MO / image: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, HABS MO,96-SALU,46H–2

The Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) was created in 2000 to promote documentation of our country’s dynamic historic landscapes. Since 2010, landscape architecture preservation enthusiasts from every state have been challenged to complete at least one HALS short format history to increase awareness of particular cultural landscapes through the annual HALS Challenge competition. The deadline to enter this year’s HALS Challenge, Documenting City or Town Park(s), is July 31, 2017.

This year’s theme was inspired by the National Park Service’s centennial in 2016, which was celebrated with the Find Your Park movement to spread the word about the amazing national parks and the inspirational stories they tell about our diverse cultural heritage. Find Your Park is about more than just national parks—it’s also about local parks and the many ways that the American public can connect with history and culture and make new discoveries. With more than 80% of Americans living in urban areas, urban parks are becoming more important than ever.

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How Wildlife Can Benefit from Highways

While high-traffic areas can pose a threat to grizzlies, less traveled routes offer conservation benefits. / image: NPS/Eric Johnston via Flickr

This article was originally published on May 19, 2017 by Ensia Media Group. The article was written by Kaitlin Stack Whitney (@KStackWhitney) and was titled How Grizzlies, Monarchs and Even Fish can Benefit from U.S. Highways. Republished with permission.

–ASLA Transportation PPN Leadership Team

Roads often present peril for wildlife—but with good planning, they can benefit animals instead.

Late last August, armed with a sweep net and identification guides, Sarah Piecuch was looking for butterflies. She trudged through waist-deep grasses, trying to keep her footing steady while tallying those she found fluttering through the sky or perched on nearby flowers.

But Piecuch isn’t an entomologist, and she wasn’t walking in a pristine meadow. Rather, she’s a wildlife biologist for the New York State Department of Transportation, and she was surveying the land beside busy highways in hopes of learning what kind of management can make these long, thin strips of habitat most beneficial for pollinators. Her work is just one of a number of projects across the country aimed at using the space along interstate highways to help wildlife.

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Time to Recharge

The view from the end of the hike to the top of the Diamond Head State Monument, Honolulu, HI / image: Alexandra Hay

With summer in full swing, some of you may be taking (or dreaming of taking) a summer vacation soon. Continuing with the theme of theme of creativity and inspired design, below we take a look at how Professional Practice Network (PPN) members recharge and keep that creativity flowing. While vacations and travel in general were mentioned, along with coffee and lots of naps, the most frequent response involved spending time outdoors (no surprise there).

Here are a few of our members’ favorite ways to take a break.

Take a Hike

“Get out in nature—mountains, desert or coastal.”

“Go to the beach and walk.”

“Hiking in the Catskills and viewing the landscape from a mountain top.”

“I am drawn to free-flowing rivers and creeks.”

“I fly fish as far away from people as possible.”

“Reading, hiking, leaving the phone behind.”

“Take my RV out to a park—usually end up at a US Army Corps of Engineer facility located nearby, or to a local State Forest.”

“Taking a walk through an open meadow.”

“Work in my yard.”

“Working my farm.”

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Is Your Professional License Safe?

Wisconsin State Capitol / image: Wikimedia Commons

If you haven’t noticed, professional licensure for Landscape Architects is on the chopping block in several states. Wait! What? Why?

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) published a report in November 2016 entitled “Fencing Out Opportunity” with the subtitle “Occupational Licensing in the Badger State”—less of a report and more of a fictional assassination of our profession of Landscape Architecture!

Let’s start at the beginning—the report author, Collin Roth, targets professional licensure as a job-killing evil that keeps non-licensed citizens from earning a living, drives up consumer costs, and believes that anyone can fulfill the duties of a Landscape Architect. Now, take this “report” in front of several eager state legislators, and we have a real problem here.

Earlier this year, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker included policy in his biennial budget proposal that would create a legislative council to review all professional licensure in the state for standards to grant the license, continuing education requirements, and the economic impacts that the license has on the state economy. During budget deliberations, the WI Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee (JFC) stripped policy items from the budget, including this one, as they should. Including policy items in the biennial budget precludes public hearings and floor debate—not a good way to govern a state! However, in Wisconsin, when a policy issue is stripped from the budget, it becomes a ‘Bill.’ A Bill needs sponsorship in both the Assembly and the Senate before it can be assigned to a committee for consideration and public hearings. A junior legislator hoping to score brownie points can sign on as sponsor of the Bill, and now we have a serious threat to our occupation!

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Building Micro Greenspaces in Disadvantaged Communities

image: From Lot to Spot

Viviana Franco is the Executive Director of From Lot to Spot, based in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, CA. From Lot to Spot (FLTS) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 2007 as a direct result of the relationship between lack of accessible green space and the quality of life in low-income neighborhoods. FLTS’ unique approach involves grassroots, community engagement to ensure disadvantaged communities contribute their voice in developing healthy spaces in their neighborhoods. FLTS relies on landscape architects for assistance with design; however, it takes much more to allow a project to come to life. The following is the story of one project, the Heart of Watts Community Garden.

–Matt Romero, ASLA, Environmental Justice PPN Co-Chair

Sometimes constructing a greenspace—from planning to design to construction—can takes years and millions of dollars. And sometimes for large, regional projects this is warranted.

However, this lengthy and costly process in low-income communities who have already been neglected for so long or have been waiting decades for adequate access to parks or gardens can be disheartening and infuriating.

People tell us time and time again, “Well, that’s government,” as if we are supposed to accept that the sometimes bureaucratic system that breeds inefficiency is ok, and that we should just accept it in our line of business.

Well,  we don’t.

We believe strongly in building small, community-driven, cost-effective greenspaces that can transform communities.

We want to tell the story of the Heart of Watts Community Garden, where a streamlined, cost-effective process to build a community-driven greenspace only helped to empower the community more. In urban, low-income communities of color greenspace is not only critical for community morale, but it boils down to social responsibility.

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If You Could Travel Back in Time

The Roman Forum / image: Alexandra Hay

Given that time is such an integral and transformative factor for any landscape, the prospect of time travel is especially intriguing for landscape architects curious to see lost landscapes or what an existing place looked like at an earlier period or while under construction. So it came as no surprise when ASLA’s Professional Practice Network (PPN) members responded with such gusto to the question: If you could travel back in time to a historical landscape, where and when would you go?

Tied for first place with 10 mentions each were two radically different spots, from very different eras: Versailles and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Here are the rest of the top answers, in order of popularity:

  1. Central Park under construction
  2. Early North America, prior to European settlement
  3. Hetch Hetchy Valley, before the creation of the O’Shaughnessy Dam
  4. Impressionists’ gardens, and specifically Monet’s gardens at Giverny
  5. Vaux-le-Vicomte
  6. Villa d’Este

Quite a few members also specified that they would like to visit these historic landscapes accompanied by their designers or other important figures associated with these places:

“I would take a horseback ride through the English countryside with Capability Brown!”

“Work with Thomas Jefferson – Architecture and Horticulture.”

“I’d love to experience the south of France with the Impressionist painters.”

“Hetch Hetchy Valley with John Muir.”

“The emerald necklace with Olmsted.”

“Stand over Kiley’s shoulder while he designs the Miller House.”

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Musical Roadway in New Mexico

Highway, Death Valley / image: tsaiproject via Flickr

Who doesn’t love to drive down the highway listening to music, especially patriotic music around the 4th of July? Well, the folks at the New Mexico Department of Transportation are helping motorists enjoy this pastime by incorporating music into the road! National Geographic’s show Crowd Control initiated the project (with funding from Allstate Insurance) to help drivers focus on the road and drive the speed limit.

The installation is similar to rumble strips, the pavement grooves that alert drivers when they are drifting out of the drive lanes and onto the roadway shoulder. However, NM DOT’s musical highway has pavement grooves placed within the drive lanes. Vehicle tires emit a sound as they pass over the grooves. This sound varies in pitch according to the groove spacing. The correct sequence of grooves and spacing cause the vehicle’s tires to emit sounds that mimic a song, in this case, a famous, well-known, patriotic song, “America the Beautiful.”

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