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April 20, 2000

Professional commitment: passing the torch and keeping it lit

Graduates of summer student program leave a legacy of pride and public education


Being a professional - what does it really mean? A solid understanding of the fundamentals, and how to provide and execute professional advice, for starters. Professional licensure, accreditation, or certification may also be important. So is the education, nurturing, and mentoring of those individuals that are new to the professional world. By helping to ensure the success of others we not only ensure the continuation of the profession, we personally enrich our own lives and the lives of others.

It was with this in mind that EDAW began its annual Summer Student Program 20 years ago. This program has now brought 197 students from 15 countries and 55 universities to 18 locations in the United States, Asia, and the Middle East. Intended as a supportive environment that emphasizes research methodology, planning, deductive reasoning, creative problem-solving and teamwork, the students pool their efforts to find solutions for real client groups on actual projects. The program is designed to challenge students in landscape architecture and planning with a hands-on opportunity that strengthens their skills and broadens their perspectives. At the same time, the program provides a valuable pro-bono professional service to diverse clients in a variety of markets.

Each year in mid-June, the program is initiated with an intense two-week charrette style workshop addressing real project issues of regional, national, or international significance. This creative collaboration of students and professionals is hosted by a different EDAW office each year in a different retreat-style setting. Through site visits, lectures, discussions with "clients" and other professionals, and studio work sessions, students explore issues and potential solutions. The "client," EDAW staff and other design professionals participate with the students as a team. By the workshops conclusion, students prepare a final work product illustrating their solutions and publicly presenting them to the client and other interested groups and individuals.

Following the workshop, students are hosted by one of EDAWs worldwide offices for a two-month paid office internship. During this time, students are involved in current projects in their host offices and regions and are provided the opportunity to take part in a variety of activities with the intent to expose the intern to the business as well as the creative environment.

The first SSP in 1980 was to develop a management information system for Poudre River Canyon, which is a spectacular canyon in the Rockies. It is now a wild and scenic river managed by the National Forest Service. The idea was to try to get the visitors to become aware of the issues in the canyon and help to manage them. The students proposed a system of meeting places and information at different levels throughout the five different life zones. Today if you go up the canyon, you will find those information and meeting stations and people being informed by the system that EDAW's first SSP suggested to the Forest Service.

SSP 1981 focused on Estes Park in Colorado, specifically on a river that runs through this gateway community to the Rocky Mountain National Park that was greatly neglected, but also was the town's major landscape asset. The primary goal was to make suggestions to the town about how the river could be used to create more ambiance for the town. Although the town was excited about our suggestions, the implementation was put on hold. Then Lawn Lake collapsed in Rocky Mountain National Park. The resulting flood gutted the towns riverfront. The town fathers said "let's pull the EDAW SSP program report off the shelf and make this happen." EDAW was hired to implement the idea. If you go there today, you can take the SSP report and sketches the students did and compare them with the built landscape on the riverfront. They are nearly identical.

The SSP first came to the Pacific Northwest in 1993 where its focus was on defining responsibility for and the sustainability of major urban parks in the complex cities of the 21st century. Specifically, it was intended to further advance the conceptual planning work already developed for the Seattle Commons - a proposed 74-acre park ringed by a 470-acre business and residential neighborhood in downtown Seattle. The Seattle Commons "Master Plan" developed by the students was a synthesis of work incorporating dynamic city life, the natural environment and cultural interpretation.

One of the most extraordinary archaeological survivals of the ancient world, the World Heritage site of Petra in Jordan, provided the focus for the 1998 SSP. This included such contemporary global issues of balancing cultural resource and site management controls with tourism development.

Students in the Petra workshop worked on overall management policies of the Wadi region, including economic development alternatives, location of development zones, land use, individual parcel layouts and implementation strategies. They also planned circulation, modes of transportation, access points, and treatment of buffers.

Its back to the Northwest for SSP 2000. Attracted by the opportunity to get involved with planning for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial, EDAW is partnering with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the 20th Annual Summer Student Program in June 2000. Together, EDAW and the Service have selected the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge - a 5,150-acre complex of refuges located in Washington along the lower Columbia River established in 1964 as a refuge for waterfowl migrating along the Pacific Flyway. Three different sites on Ridgefield are mentioned in the journals of Lewis and Clark and the refuge is in the process of planning for the Bicentennial Commemoration of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 2003 - 2006. The refuge also has a rich cultural heritage; the Wapato Portage site, which dates from 300 B.C., is believed to have contained the earliest house structures along the lower Columbia River. It was near this site that Lewis and Clark camped and traded with the Cathlapotle, an indigenous people and part of the Chinook Tribe, at one of the largest Indian villages in this stretch of the Columbia River.

There are several opportunities and challenges facing Ridgefield NWR as it enters the 21st century. The refuge is located at the northern border of the expanding Portland/Vancouver metropolitan area and is an important site on the Lewis and Clark Trail. The number of visitors to the Refuge has been steadily increasing as more people look for natural sites close to the metropolitan areas for walking and wildlife observation. Visitation is expected to increase even more during the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commemoration. However, Ridgefield currently has few trails, no visitor center, and limited facilities for interpretation and education. There are also no facilities at Ridgefield or nearby that can house artifacts from the cultural sites. In addition, there are needs for wetlands restoration and exotic plant species control.

The Service hopes to ensure that the Refuge is well integrated into the national- and regional-level plans underway for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commemoration and to leverage this process into site-specific improvements and upgrades to education and interpretive facilities. The Refuge is in a prime location to interpret the Lewis and Clark Expedition from a Native American perspective, providing a counterpoint to Fort Clatsop, which is near the mouth of the Columbia River and focuses on the European view of the expedition. This historical perspective could also be used as the basis for interpreting the natural resources of the Refuge, providing a context that connects people to the landscape through time.

This cultural heritage, as well as the important habitat provided by Ridgefield for wintering waterfowl, will form the foundation of the education and interpretation program to be designed by the students taking part in this years SSP. To adequately address the multitude of issues and develop creative and well-founded solutions this years program is going to require the most multi-disciplinary team of students yet assembled. In addition to landscape architecture, students will be selected that represent the fields of environmental planning, biology, urban and regional planning, and cultural and historical resources. As has been the case with the programs preceding this one, the SSP once again promises to be an enormous challenge, very interesting, lots of fun, and extremely rewarding.

Kevin Butterbaugh is a Senior Associate in EDAWs Seattle office where his work has focused on resource management planning and associated environmental analysis.

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