From Maine to Pennsylvania

With travel between Maine and Pennsylvania, these past few weeks at the Olmsted Center have been a whirlwind of learning and doing.

Early in June, we (the Designing the Parks interns) were treated with a visit to Acadia National Park for a week of work, exploration, and bonding. With it being my first time visiting “the first national park east of the Mississippi” (as it’s cheerfully referred to on many an NPS publication), its Lakeview vistas and terrain of woodlands and mountain peaks, did not disappoint. Though, as an aside: I was terribly disappointed to learn that people from Maine were called “Mainers” rather than the more entertaining “Mainiacs”.

At Acadia, we dedicated time towards updating a few of the park’s Cultural Landscape Inventories by conducting field surveys of Jordan’s Pond, Cadillac Mountain, Sieur de Monts Spring, and other sites. In addition to gaining field work experience, the trip also provided an opportunity to visit a few of the gardens on Mt. Desert Island, providing an interest contrast between the rugged (though neatly maintained) landscape of the park and its more precisely curated spaces. Visits to museums and a local landscape architecture firm, rounded out our trip and helped us gain an understanding to the various facets of the landscape architecture field. Further adventures included: hikes along the trails of Sieur de Monts, enjoying the buttery delicacies of popovers at the Jordan Pond House, rising before the sun to experience a 4:30 am sunrise, walking to Bar Island during low-tide, and leisurely strolls by the docks of Bar Harbor. Ultimately, the best part of the experience was having the opportunity to spend time with the lovely group with whom I’ll be spending my summer.

The second trip of the summer included site visits to two parks in West Pennsylvania: the Flight 93 Memorial and Johnstown Flood Memorial. I joined a team of Olmsted Center’s landscape architectures, Jennifer Hanna, Eliot Foulds, Michael Stachowics, and director Bob Page, as they met with park supervisors and rangers to discuss the park’s present landscape and interpretation challenges. From an observer, it was fascinating to see the level of collaboration that is involved in producing an informative plan that incorporates various perspectives regarding the interpretation of a site: looking at the broad interpretative value of the site, and focusing on the more minute details of treatment tasks and subsequent management.

On the sites themselves: As sites of remembrance, the two sites are elegant and reflective in nature. With the events of September 11 ingrained within our collective memory, Flight 93 is serene and monumental with its expansive landscape and sculptural structures. Johnstown Flood is more educative in nature, with the event of the catastrophic flood having occurred 130 years ago (and safely beyond anyone’s recollection) the site successfully presents its history prior and after the flood of May 31, 1889.

Both trips were provided valuable lessons, and I’m grateful to have been a part of them.

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