As 2020 rages on, so does a record forest fire season. In the Western United States alone, over 6.6 million acres have been burned, 7,500+ structures have been destroyed, and close to 40 people have lost their lives just this year. There is mounting pressure to address what is now a yearly occurrence and landscape architects can play a key and leading role through site design.
This issue hit home for us, with some of our own employees evacuated in what were not just wilderness fires but suburban blazes as well. The problem only seems to be getting worse, with a clear need for alternative solutions to protect properties, investments, and lives moving forward.
The first way to limit exposure and susceptibility to forest fires is initial site selection and location. Americans love their freedom and often their privacy, which has led to community development right up to the fringes of nature. Local and state agencies play a huge role in where houses are sited and what codes are required to address fire danger. Do isolated or rural community developments in the West need to stop altogether, or can certain techniques and approaches be used to more safely develop these communities?
Edited by Paul H. Gobster, Robert G. Ribe, and James F. Palmer
Landscape architects have been leading contributors to the academic field of visual landscape assessment research and to the professional practice of visual impact assessment. Landscape and Urban Planning has been the leading journal publishing this work, and it has now created a collection of 18 articles published previously that are representative of the 744 articles the journal has published in this field. The collection is introduced with a literature review about themes and trends in visual assessment authored by Paul Gobster, Robert Ribe, and James Palmer, all Fellows of the American Society of Landscape Architects.
Generally misunderstood as a bunch of tree huggers, many landscape architects have intrinsic skills that are surprisingly well suited to assisting in all steps of adaptation planning. Maybe you are the type of landscape architect that appreciates plants and what they can do for urban environments but aren’t obsessed with individual species. If you find yourself frequently looking at the big picture, more interested in understanding and improving the relationship between humans and their environment, then you will find adaptation planning a natural extension of your skills and interests.
While the guidebook discussed in this article describes steps that are currently being taken in Florida, the concepts are applicable to any coastal area that experiences flooding. Many local agencies around the country already complete Hazard Mitigation Plans that capture a wide range of disaster types, which may include hurricanes, tropical storms, flooding, and sea level rise.
Florida is currently experiencing a variety of physical effects related to sea level rise depending on a local community’s specific geography. Some communities, like Miami, are already experiencing “nuisance flooding,” that is, floods that occur at high tides and/or king tides, which are not during storm events (also known as “blue sky” flooding). Cities like St. Augustine may only experience flooding as they coincide with disaster events, like Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Places like Escambia County that are not expected to experience significant flooding even with disaster events for 50 years have the tools of adaptation planning at their fingertips to make long term decisions about where to locate critical infrastructure that may have a 75-year lifespan, like a power plant or wastewater treatment facility. In this way, the adaptation planning process is designed to be flexible to accommodate this varying timeline of anticipated effects.
Last year, Anna Stachofsky served as an intern in our Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation’s Planning, Design and Development Division, where I work as a Senior Planner and had the privilege of being her supervisor during her six month stay. Anna will be graduating this spring with a Bachelor’s in Landscape Architecture and a Minor in Communications. Anna is hands down the most dynamic young professional in our field that I have ever had the pleasure of interacting with, and I am happy to now introduce her reflections on her internship here on The Field. – Elaine Linn, PLA, ASLA, Landscape—Land Use Planning Professional Practice Network (PPN) Chair
During the spring and summer of 2018, the Ball State University Centennial Class of 2019 for Landscape Architecture left campus in pursuit of the infamous professional internship. Seeing as I had an 8-semester scholarship that I needed to stretch across a 10-semester degree, I decided I needed to get as much professional experience as I could—an entire semester of it, to be exact—in order to save some school money and get a mental break from a very taxing degree path.
I had a fairly unique internship experience: I traveled to the Virginia Beach area in August of 2017 to visit some good friends and network with local professionals. One visit led to another, and before I knew it, I was making arrangements to move to Virginia for an entire semester. Over the spring and summer of 2018, I managed to intern under both the private and public sectors of landscape architecture. My work week consisted of training with the Planning, Design and Development Division of Parks & Recreation three days a week, while interning with a private planning firm on the other two days. Comparing and contrasting these experiences proved invaluable to me and allowed me to explore my own strengths and preferences as I prepared to transition into the fully professional realm of landscape architecture.
Whether you are a future intern, a current intern, or maybe a professional who is considering hiring an intern of your own, I believe there are universal beliefs, values, and attitudes that are true of any design profession as far as internships are concerned. Recognizing these internship truths can help you prepare for an internship, acclimate to an existing internship, and recognize the mindset of incoming interns to any design office. Through reflecting on my experiences, I intend to share with you five major takeaways I derived from the overall internship experience.
Stormwater management approaches in the US are evolving dramatically. For most of the past three decades, the standard approach was to store water and control its rate of runoff into the environment. In the past decade, the treatment of stormwater for urban runoff pollutants has gained traction as the impact of such pollutants has become apparent. Throughout the country, developing green infrastructure to treat stormwater pollution is moving from the fringe of the practice to mainstream acceptance.
New York strongly encourages the adoption of green infrastructure approaches to stormwater management to reduce urban runoff pollutants. The New York State Stormwater Management Design Manual released in 2015 sets as design objectives (1) the capture and treatment the full water quality volume of runoff; ( 2) the capacity to remove 80 percent of total suspended solids (TSS) and 40 percent of total phosphorous (TP); (3) mechanisms for the pre-treatment of stormwater; and (4) an acceptable operational lifespan for stormwater systems.
One issue that New York and other states and municipalities fail to address, however, are regulations that dictate a hodge-podge of small, privately owned and maintained (or not) stormwater management systems. General regulatory practice is that stormwater must be managed and treated on the parcel that generates it. This has resulted in a landscape of single-function detention or retention “craters” in developed areas, with little aesthetic appeal or function beyond stormwater management.
“Take an umbrella- it might rain!” How many times have we heard that?
These days it seems to be happening more and more. Is it really raining more? Or is it raining heavily more often? In the coastal plain of the east coast, that question keeps coming up. The City of Virginia Beach has been conducting an analysis to develop a plan to protect against the impacts of sea level rise. But, as we worried and fretted as to whether or not we were on the right curve or projection from the myriad of possibilities and probabilities associated with sea level rise, portions of the City were getting flooded by rainfall in ways and in locations that we have not experienced in the past.
We know that sea level rise is a major concern for coastal Virginia and particularly for the Hampton Roads region. The five long-term water level observation stations in southeast Virginia, highlighted in green in the table below, are in the top 10% of the highest relative sea level rise rates in the nation.
As landscape architects, we are highly in tune with the principles and practices of land use planning and, for most of us, it is part of our everyday professional life. Although we are often commissioned to design a single site, we know better than anyone the tangible implications to the surrounding areas, the community, and the regional context our designs may impact. So where does site-specific design stop and land use planning in a broader context begin? How do we best steward the resources and demographics in a global and holistic context? To answer these questions we may need to take a look at the connectivity between land uses. And to do that, we are going to tap into the fields of transportation planning and engineering, and analyze how they overlap with our contributions as landscape architects to the modern world of land use planning.
For this article, we have asked for the perspective of a seasoned transportation planner with over 25 years of experience in analyzing, managing and directing statewide projects and programs in transportation operations, safety and future-ready transportation. John D. Hendrickson, AICP, an Assistant Vice President at WSP and is the director of a traffic engineering and transportation planning group for clients throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. Mr. Hendrickson is also currently the President of the Virginia Section of the Institute of Transportation Engineers (VASITE). One of his goals as a transportation planner is to improve communities by blending sustainable transportation systems with sustainable land uses. The result is the creation of complete and efficient roadway networks that allow for multi-modal opportunities that analyze existing operational and safety challenges and develop solutions. Below are John’s perspectives on transportation and land use planning, and the critical importance of each.
U.S. Forest Service Sustainable Recreation Planning through Community Engagement
The mountains surrounding Tucson, Arizona hold a bounty of scenic desert recreation opportunities, from waterfalls to archaeological sites and geological rock formations. A fifteen minute drive through northeast Tucson leads to Redington Pass, connecting the Santa Catalina and Rincon mountain ranges in the Coronado National Forest – managed by the US Forest Service (USFS). Redington Road, a 14-mile strip of unpaved road maintained by Pima County, winds across the Pass connecting the Tucson and San Pedro valleys. The scenic and challenging desert backcountry of Redington Pass attracts a diverse range of users, including recreationalists, ranchers, and researchers.
When I started my research, the Forest Service was finalizing revisions to their comprehensive Forest Plan to meet the needs of public land access for the 21st century. Presently, only one ecological management area exists for the entire district. The Plan revision proposes a collaborative area management plan specific for Redington Pass, in coordination with the Friends of Redington Pass (FRP), a non-profit organization representing social and environmental interests on the Pass. This partnership is illustrative of modern network development forged across sectors to tackle complex shared issues.
Pitkin County & Colorado’s Early Experience with Legalized Weed
With the recent legalization of marijuana in the State of Colorado for recreational use, the nascent medical marijuana industry that had provided marijuana to those with doctors’ prescriptions expanded to recreational marijuana shops and grow operations. As with the rest of the state, the Aspen area has seen retail shops opening and grow operations proposed. Some of these land use proposals have been approved, and some not. This is an area of land use that has provoked considerable controversy, as this “green” boom does not come without its issues. Questions of safety, impacts on health, issues with driving while under the influence, and social acceptance of a substance that has so long stood in the shadows of society have entered the daily discussion. And now, land use has come into play.
Over the last two years, my colleagues and I at the Louisiana State University (LSU) Coastal Sustainability Studio have been developing a program that provides resources to planning staff in Louisiana communities to integrate resilience into planning efforts, whether they are working on zoning codes, comprehensive plans, or water management plans. The results of the program to-date have been based on the development of an online, decision-support tool and a webinar and workshop series that included presentations from national experts and partnerships with regional practitioners to address local challenges in Louisiana. While cultural, environmental, and economic context is critical in proposing sustainable mitigating actions in response to risk, there are clear lessons that are transferable to communities around the US. The following is one of many strategies for resilience we have identified.
Communities spend large amounts of money on infrastructure improvements, including road maintenance, building renovations, and drainage and sewer repairs. Precisely because these retrofitting efforts represent costly community investments, they should be conducted in ways that achieve multiple goals: increase livability and sustainability, reduce hazards and risks, and prepare for post-disaster recovery.
The Confluence of Art and Land Use Politics, or the Journey is Half the Fun
As a parent, hearing the phrase “are we there yet” can cause your skin to crawl. It isn’t that we don’t understand the frustration of a long wait for an anticipated vacation, but things that are worthwhile take time to happen – right? As land use professionals, we find ourselves answering this question, in so many words, for our clients as we wind our way down a circuitous path towards approval of a project. Like the six year old in the back seat of the family wagon, our clients just wish to get on with the fun of building the project and would rather forget the often teeth grinding journey that leads to final approval. And yet, as land use professionals who have freely chosen this profession, on some level, we must think the journey is fun.
Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude, the dynamic duo behind such visually stunning and culturally evocative temporary outdoor art projects such as the wrapping of the Reichstag and the Gates in New York’s Central Park, seem to understand that the twists and turns of the permitting process is something that can and should become an integral part of any project and not just a means to an end. Sadly, Jeanne-Claude passed away in 2009 but her husband and their team of consultants continue to pursue one of the couple’s latest examples of this appreciation of process in their proposed project for the Arkansas River in Fremont County, Colorado.
Paths Between Neighbors (PBN) is an innovative strategy to get private property owners who have not been actively involved in land conservation excited about and collaborating in land stewardship. Piloted by the Okanagan Valley Land Trust (OVLT), PBN is being used to further OVLT’s work in preserving the native landscapes, working farms, and ranches across the rugged hills of the Okanogan Highlands in eastern Washington.
This article could easily be written by a member of the International or Transportation PPNs, but the bicycle is becoming increasingly important in Land Use, so it is offered here to spark a discussion about the importance of alternate transportation in community design.
Living in Aspen, Colorado, cycling has become a part of our lifestyle. Whether it is mountain or road biking, trails and facilities exist to encourage even the most timid into this healthy recreation. In town, year-round cyclists, some with studded snow tires, regularly use cycling to get to work and run errands. So, it seemed natural in planning a trip to Spain (in a country where the famed Vuelta de España race ranks among the top three cycling events worldwide), to see what is happening with respect to cycling. Our trip therefore included a week of cycling through Andalucia as well as visits to Madrid and Seville, two cities that have gone far to develop car-free pedestrian zones. But how well do they accommodate cycling as an alternative mode of transportation and means of recreation? It turns out that these cities could not be more different in this respect, something that no doubt reflects the divergence among U.S. cities as well. In the countryside, some significant efforts are made for cycling safety on rural roads, and rails-to-trails is part of the program.
Planners, business associations, governments, visitors, and residents are becoming more aware of the importance of attractive and informative wayfinding signage to help them steer through the complexities and appreciate the changing environment of a city setting. Incorporating a signage and wayfinding system as part of the planning process is critical to the effectiveness of an overall revitalization strategy.