Landscape planning and design for mountain environments is different than any other environment. Stuff like big hills, snow, ice, frost, and freezing temperatures are the obvious differences, but there is so much more.
Understanding these things and how they shape the land and the lives of the people who chose to live in the mountain environment takes a unique perspective, one that is best gained through life experience, witnessing and embracing continuous change. I love the constant changes that are brought about by seasons in the mountains. I never get bored!
And that is what makes me just the right person to plan and design landscapes in mountain communities. I have a deep knowledge and understanding of mountain microclimates, weather patterns, wildlife, vegetation, terrain, geology, hydrology, and culture.
Aside from my time in college at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, I have lived and played in mountain environments my entire life including the Sierra Nevada, the Rocky Mountain’s Front Range, Wasatch and now the Wood River Region. The many facets of mountain life including the, rugged beauty, flora, wildlife, geology, lakes, streams and rivers fill my soul and are a constant inspiration in my life’s recreation pursuits, as well as my design work.
I was born and raised in the North Lake Tahoe-Truckee Region where my parents engaged me in the area’s rich natural environment and colorful ski resort industry from before birth – my parents worked at Squaw Valley during the 1960 Olympics. I guess the one thing you could say about mountain living is: it’s in my blood.
MY CAREER PATH
So, you might wonder how I got into Landscape Architecture? As a young adult, I toyed with becoming an artist or designer of clothing – but both meant adapting to lifestyles that didn’t appeal to me. So, I became a ski instructor at a Lake Tahoe resort and in the summers worked as a bartender, in retail, on an Alpine Slide, and later for landscape contractors and a local nursery where my love of botany, a hobby since age nine, flourished. At some point during that time I realized I needed a ‘summer career’ to complement my ‘ski instructor career’. Performing landscape maintenance one summer, pulling weeds, cooking in the hot afternoon sun and cleaning lawn mowers, I realized I wanted to design the stuff, not toil in it! And so, it began – I took off to CalPoly to pursue a degree in Landscape Architecture the following fall and never looked back. Landscape Architecture became my primary focus and skiing became just for fun. No regrets.
In the fall of 2019 my husband and I left the Tahoe area to take up residence in Idaho’s Wood River Valley – home of the famed Sun Valley Resort and location of charming towns like Hailey and Ketchum where we are loving the people and the varied new views, as well as enjoying our favorite activities like skiing, cycling and hiking. And by the way – the wildflowers here are AMAZING!
Now I’m happy to share that I have my little office located in Ketchum and I live in Hailey. Oh, and at this point I am hoping to land a part-time spot on the Sun Valley Ski School for the ’20-’21 season – nothing like coming full circle.
ABOUT LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE
I love my profession; Landscape Architecture in its purest sense, to me, is one of the most noble of endeavors because I get to help people fit into their world in a way that brings about comfort and meaning while protecting, enhancing and restoring the land that supports them. A common mantra for Landscape Architects, “Stewardship for the Environment” resonates strongly with me.
In the years since I began in this profession in 1990 I have worked performing everything from mountain resort planning to residential landscape design, park and recreation planning to watershed restoration design, stormwater management design to agency review as a commissioner. Along the way I worked alone and in large teams to bring about project development and in that process, I have come to realize a few things:
Water enthralls me – in all its forms, processes, and places – from tiny ice crystals to massive glaciers, whether in quiet stillness or a raging torrent, as mountain streams, rivers, waterfalls, or lakes. All its beauty and power captivates and inspires.
Nature in all its forms and patterns intrigues me – it is the very essence and inspiration of design. My office walls are covered with images of natural forms and wildflowers. My computer screen is a photo I took of a sunset from Island Pass on the John Muir Trail – one of my favorite places!
Stormwater Management and Watershed Restoration features do not have to be ugly! To facilitate the use, protection and management of water in more artful and creative ways is really cool – to move away from the “standard practices” of Gray Infrastructure to more “sustainable practices” of Green Infrastructure – to leave behind a legacy of management through ART and Design rather than management through gravel and hard pipe would make my work fun and interesting!
I first became engaged in the possibilities for this when I was asked to join a Technical Advisory Committee for the development of a Low Impact Development (LID) Guidebook for Eastern Placer County. The committee included designers, engineers, a university scientist, agency personnel, representatives from local environmental and contractor organizations, a developer and was funded by Placer County, Sierra Nevada Conservancy and The Sierra Business Council. The upshot of the process, for me, was that by restoring or mimicking natural systems, we could effectively reduce the need for gravel and pipes and thus reduce the burden that traditional stormwater management places on infrastructures of all types while creating a visually pleasing and highly functional form of stormwater management. The idea that infusing art and creativity into LID features, makes this practice even more inviting.
In the end of this process, I also was able to provide some professional help by creating the LID plant list in Appendix A of the final document. The guidebook and information about the TAC can be found at here.
Since then I obtained my SITES AP (Sustainable Sites Accredited Professional), designation which is the USGBC-GBCI equivalent of LEED for Landscape Architecture and embraces the principles if LID among many others related to sustainable planning and design on the land.
I strongly believe that the collaborative process is the most effective way to bring about really good design whether the project is residential, public, or commercial. My favorite projects all came out of the gathering of designers, engineers, clients, agencies, employees, and end-users in one room to share and air dreams, ideas, opportunities, and constraints. I have decided that design in a vacuum is not my preferred course. Working on design teams has helped me win awards of recognition from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and the Contractors Association of Truckee Tahoe.
So much of what Landscape Architecture is about is the melding of art, science and technology into a setting or place that is dynamic and ever-changing while embracing and embodying that change.
If all this resonates with you, then please contact me to discuss how we can collaboratively work together to create your unique place on the land.