31 March 2008

Andrea Cochran lecture

The Margeret Cekada Memorial Lecture is going to be on April 16th. The official poster, designed by Ben Heller, is shown above (click for full size version).

Duke Gardens closing

Duke Gardens, one of the best kept secrets in Central New Jersey, is closing May 25th for a major overhaul. While much of Doris Duke's old estate has been kept fairly private, the public has been allowed small glimpses of the property in their visits to the botanic collection and conservatory. This is part of a vision for the entire property that will increase access, improve visitor conditions and shift more emphasis to environmental awareness and education.

30 March 2008

Boundary Waters

Although I only mentioned it briefly in class, the Boundary Waters has been on my mind. For those less familiar here are a few sites from the National Geographic Society, Minnesota Public Radio, TrueColorEarth, and local outfitters. The official site is pretty much just for people ready to get a permit.

View Larger Map

29 March 2008

The Highlands Plan's A'Coming

The debate over the future of the Highlands looks like it will have a major milestone (or millstone) this summer. The Highlands Council has announced that they'll finally vote on the Preservation Plan in July. That will give both sides plenty of time to knock away at the plan and mobilize forces, maybe even hold rallies. During the public comment period, Bill Wolfe described it as a Potemkin Plan. I expect this to be an exciting (albeit uncomfortable) time for the Highlands. The Star-Ledger reports that people are even divided on why it has taken so long to hold a vote on this:

Jeff Tittel, executive director of the Sierra Club, said the delays were largely the council's fault. He says the group erred in not hiring an outside consultant at the start. He noted the council was on its third executive director, and had experienced considerable turnover in personnel.

"It's been a soap opera," he said. "That's what the delay's all about."

Naturally the Councill sees it otherwise.

But Swan noted that the average municipality takes two years to write a master plan, and the Highlands Council is dealing with 88 municipalities. Collecting all the necessary data took a great deal of time, and added the council opted to go through two rounds of public comment because they were committed to a "very public process."

"A lot of people have always said it's most important to get it right," she said.

28 March 2008

Outdoor Art

As temperatures start warming up, we start thinking about getting outdoors. Outdoor art is one of my favorite things to photograph, so we'll start off the weekend with some of my outdoor art photos.
(By request, I am adding a list of locations, top to bottom: Laumeier Sculpture Garden, St Louis; Storm King Art Center; Joan Miro Center, Barcelona; Sol i Ombra, Parc del Nord, Barcelona; Spiral of Trees, Parc del Nord, Barcelona; Tanner Fountain, Cambridge, MA; Noguchi Center, Long Island City, NY; Subirachs' Adam and Eve, Sagrada Familia, Barcelona; Parc Diagonal Mar, Barcelona; Earth Spiral, Meadowlands, NJ; The Barcelona Pavillion, Barcelona)

Spring migration

Dave L says the birds are coming!

Tropical Hibiscus

A few tips for moving those tropical hibiscus out side this spring. Spring is here!

GPS will help save fuel

Treehugger looks at how the next generation of GPS will save gas.

Slate's Stupidest Bike Lane

Slate has a fun video looking at what they say is the stupidest bike lane. But they welcome suggestions anyone who can find worse.

27 March 2008

A special last minute meeting

On April 10th, Somerset County is holding a special public meeting looking at potential greenway land in Bridgewater, Raritan, and Somerville. While it is a far cry from a municipal planning board meeting, it is such an interesting opportunity that I would consider it for Assignment 1. BUT, you need to write me before you do it.

The 2008 Lewis Mumford Lecture on Urbanism

One of the special things about being at Rutgers, when compared with many of our peer institutions, is the incredible number of intellectual opportunities we have in the region. Princeton, New York and Philly are all a short train ride away. Authors, movie screenings and art exhibits outnumber the free hours we have in the academic year. And there is no way that this blog can keep up with all of the relavent opportunities for our students. But here is another one worth mentioning:

This year's Lewis Mumford Lecture on Urbanism will be given by the well known geography professor, David Harvey. The talk will be on Thursday April 3rd at at 6pm in the Great Hall an CCNY.

Professor Harvey’s lecture, titled “The Right to the City,” will examine who
gets to exercise this precious right and how. Under capitalism, there has been a
long-standing conflict between a view of cities as centers for profit making and
capital accumulation and another that sees them as utopian spaces of human

While the former has prevailed, Professor Harvey will ask
how the right to the city can be restored to the people. Such questions need to
be addressed by all who seek a more humane and ecologically sensitive urbanism
for the 21st Century, he contends.

Defend your design!

Design students find juries to be a tough situation, after weeks (or at least a night or two) of pouring yourself into your work you have to get up and defend it. But, as evidenced in today's news, it is important training for the real world of design.

The architects of Xanadu have been called into public meeting to defend the appearance of the newest eyesore on the Turnpike. It has changed some since the early concept drawings were presented. But seriously, how ugly can be? They haven't even started the ferris wheel yet...

To get permission to build this on an area where wetlands had to filled, the Meadowlands had to create or restore some other wetlands. It is part of an idea sometimes called mitigation banking. But to build something that ugly, should they have to create or restore something that looks good somewhere else?

Certeau Quote

What the map cuts up, the story cuts across.
Michel de Certeau
The Practice of Everyday Life (1980)

San Francisco Open Space

I really like apps that mix LA and geomatics. The San Francisco Chronicle has created an interactive map of a variety of semi-public open spaces in the heart of the city. It is attached to an article looking at long standing city development policies that have resulted in publicly-accessible , privately-owned open spaces throughout the city. But, many of these have remained less well known, like the 15th floor "sun garden" at 343 Sansome. Why do you need the geomatics to help out with the LA?

With better marketing and public attention, the visibility of the spaces could improve. A downtown map highlighting the hideaways could be available on the Web and through brochures - an idea touted by the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, a local public policy think tank.

26 March 2008

Last Call: MAC URISA 2008

[as advertised]
The Mid-Atlantic Chapter of URISA’s 14th Regional GIS Conference

Geography • Industry • Society
April 7-9, 2008
Burlington County College
Enterprise Center
Mount Laurel, NJ
Have you registered for the MAC URISA conference yet? Take advantage of top-quality education and professional development opportunities without having to travel across the country!
Five preconference workshops:
Introduction to GIS
Introduction to GPS
GIS Program Management (URISA Certified)
3D Geospatial Best Practices (URISA Certified)
Quality Management and Intro to Issue Tracking (URISA Certified)
Two keynote speakers:
Dr. David A. Robinson is chairman of the Department of Geography at Rutgers University, and also serves as New Jersey’s State Climatologist. (2007 Nobel Peace Prize Winner)
John Landis is the Crossways Professor of City and Regional Planning for the University of Pennsylvania.
Dozens of presenters in sessions ranging from “County GIS Applications” to “GIS Jeopardy”.
A Poster and Map Hall, an Interactive Expo and a Vendor Hall along with an Exhibit Hall Networking Event make MAC URISA’s 14th Regional GIS Conference a not-to-be-missed event.
View the complete conference program online: http://www.macurisa.org/
Don’t delay. Pre-register by this Friday, March 28 via the online registration form.
See you at MAC URISA 2008!

25 March 2008

Wan Soo Im's bathroom maps

The City Room blog featured the interactive bathroom map of New York City by Wan Soo Im. Apparently they don't have to follow the Times style guide on the blogs, because they called him Dr. Im instead of Mr. Im. I am guessing they found out about his web mapping through our recent post here on Places and Spaces. But their blog gets comments like this:
The best part about Wansoo Im’s map is that it’s a community participatory map, allowing the community to add locations by just clicking on the “Add a Restroom” button on the site. Accessible by wireless technology, it’s a high tech way to meet a very basic human need!

Atlantic Yards

Lots has been written over the last few days covering Ratner's changing plans for the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. The NYTimes broke a story which others analyzed, looking at the downsizing of Ratner's massive proposed 22-tower development and commerncail/entertainment complex. The Times highlighted the uncertainty:

Adding to the uncertainty surrounding Atlantic Yards is the ascension of a new governor. Gov. David A. Paterson, who took office on Monday, called for a statewide moratorium in 2005 on the use of eminent domain, which is needed to clear the site of about 20 property owners. Mr. Paterson was a state senator when he made the proposal; his office said it is reviewing the matter.

Ratner got a lot of concessions and was given permission to pursue dramatic ideas based on his promises like neighborhood improvements and low income housing.

Given the current environment, some critics worry that Mr. Ratner will negotiate for deeper subsidies, reduce the amount of low- and moderate-income housing included or eventually sell off portions of the site to other developers who could use their own, less expensive designs.

Other papers took this announcement of downsizing and saw this as a vindication of Ratner's long-time critics. But what is a bar owner or shopkeeper supposed to do while they wait to find out if their property will be condemned for this? Do they sit there with the sword of Damacles hanging over their head? Do they give in and sell the property at a bargain basement price? The Gothamist digs in to the situation a little more:
Let's forecast the future here. With construction targets - which underlie the use of eminent domain to acquire parts of the site - now being delayed, at the discretion of the developer, how long until other fundamental metrics, like, say, all those neighborhood benefits and all that affordable housing get tossed to the wayside under the weight of economic imperatives?

Where's your news?

The new GeoSearch News tool at MetaCarta lets you see where the latest news is happening.

24 March 2008

Cheap mansions available

If you thought that the McMansion foreclosures sounded unlikely, you might want to read about the very large Kansas City homes that are being sold at steep discounts through foreclosure auctions.

Smoggy days in the National Parks

The Times has an editorial today on smog and other forms of poor air quality that are impacting the Nation's parks. It is a shame that this has to be handled as a politicized issue, because the damage is so evident:

The net result is that one in three national parks suffers from one or another form of air pollution, including immensely popular destinations like Yosemite in California, Great Smoky Mountain, straddling the Tennessee-North Carolina border, and Gettysburg.

When the smog at the Grand Canyon is mentioned in the tourist guides, we've reached a pretty sad point in saving these common treasures for future generations. Next thing you know, they'll be killing off the wildlife.

21 March 2008

Parkways in America

Dr. Timothy Davis recently visited Leonard Lopate's Please Explain to talk about parkways in America. He describes parkways as one of America's great contributions to landscape architecture and makes you just want to get out and drive. As you will see on the WNYC site (liked above) it sparked a little conversation about Robert Moses' role in creating parkways and how we sought to use them. You might already know Dr. Davis for his work at the NPS' PHS and CLP or his book on park roads. The podcast is great to listen to and would be a nice way to spend your Sunday afternoon while raking up what had better be the very last snowfall of the year.

The photograph is somewhere around DC from the Library of Congress, maybe on the George Washington Parkway or the BW.

The Corps and the Mississippi

No one body of water seems to represent the history, power and foibles of the US Army Corps of Engineers as much as the Mississippi River. This month's special section in Grist Magazine looks at the Corps and the Mississippi, both past and future, and reveals a bit more about this complex relationship. Our mappers might enjoy the cartoonish interactive map of current Corps projects on the river. Others might just skip to the slideshow (with sound) of development along the river.

View Larger Map

20 March 2008

Historic status after less than 50 years

We spoke in class about historic value and how it can be relative, depending on community values. Yesterday's NYTimes took a look at the proposal to grant historic landmark status to 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza. Most importantly, the online version of the Times includes a great slideshow to help convince you of the value of the building.

Revolutionary War Lecture

One of the foremost experts on New Jersey's role in America's fight for independence is speaking on Tuesday in Trenton at an event sponsored by the the New Jersey Office of Legislative Services. The following comes form the H-Net:

Mark Lender, professor and chairman of the history department at Kean University will give a talk entitled "Crossroads of the American Revolution: New Jersey and the Struggle for Independence," on Tuesday, March 25 at 10:00 AM in Committee room 16 in the State House Annex in Trenton.

For almost half of America's Revolutionary War, from 1776 to 1778, George Washington and his Continental Army engaged the mightiest
military land force on the globe - the British Army and its allied Hessian troops - in battles and skirmishes that were fought across the
landscape of New Jersey, while much of the civilian population was ensnared in the bitter and bloody conflict. During the entire period
of the revolutionary struggle, from 1775 to 1783, New Jersey was home to a series of events - both political and military - that reflected
the importance of its historical contributions to our achieving independence from Great Britain. Today, there are over 50 sites in
the Garden State where one can retrace the steps of the Continental Army; and federal legislation was enacted in October 2006 to designate
the Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area in New Jersey (one of only 37 nationwide), which includes 213 cities and
towns stretching from Fort Lee in Bergen County to Red Bank Battlefield in Gloucester County.

Mark Edward Lender (Ph.D., Rutgers University), former Dean of the Nathan Weiss Graduate College at Kean University, has focused his
teaching and scholarship on early American military and social history and often writes on New Jersey subjects. Professor Lender has been
the recipient of several professional awards, including the Richard J. Hughes Award in 2005, which is the highest honor conferred by the New
Jersey Historical Commission. A member of the Board of Directors of the Crossroads of the American Revolution Association, he is the
author or co-author of many publications on the Revolution and is currently completing a book on the Battle of Monmouth in 1778.

19 March 2008

Energy film


Tuesday, March 25th 8PM
Rutgers Student Center, Multipurpose Room, CAC
Discussion with Professor Mazen Labban, University of Miami
His current research focuses on the geopolitical economy of petroleum.

In a world in which the U.S. and Europe are addicted to oil and gas, and those increasingly scarce resources are controlled by authoritarian regimes
in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela, Nigeria and Russia, the geopolitical ramifications have upset the traditional balance of power between nations.
ENERGY WAR reveals precisely how the economic importance of fossil fuels affects international politics and becomes a powerful tool of foreign policy.

For more information go to http://sasip.rutgers.edu/
or contact Janet Lorenzen at jlorenzen@sociology.rutgers.edu

Cosponsored by the Center for African Studies and the College Avenue Campus Dean. This series is made possible by generous support from the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs, the Office of the Vice President for Undergraduate Education and the Office of International Programs, SAS.

Tim Marshal Speaking at Cadwalader Park

Tim Marshall, ASLA will be giving the talk, "The Public and Private Challenge: Restoring Cadwalader Park" on Friday April 4th. The lecture will be at 7:30 pm in The City Museum at Ellarslie in F. L. Olmsted's Cadawalader Park. Mr. Marshall is a landscape architect in Highland Park, NJ as principal and owner of ETM Associates. He also served as Vice President of the Central Park Conservancy and is a noted designer of parks and open spaces.

18 March 2008

The Atlantic: The Next Slum

Do things look different after the Bear Stearns bail out? Can you imagine a neighborhood, maybe in Hunterdon County, where a row of shiny new McMansions could sit unsold for a few years? How high would the weeds get? Would the neighbors who did buy $800k homes that are suddenly worth $600k really hang onto a house they can barely afford just so they can live in a new ghost town? How long would it be before the town changed zoning so the houses could be converted to multi-multi-family? Are we nearing a point where people will move into town to get away from crime?

The March issue of Atlantic Monthly has a feature called The Next Slum? that looks at these issues. They mention that some communities are mapping out foreclosures as a predictor of crime increases. And, as if they had been sitting in on my lectures last week, they offered up some demographic analysis to show that there are some real trends in play here:
Because the population is growing, families with children will still grow in absolute number—according to U.S. Census data, there will be about 4 million more households with children in 2025 than there were in 2000. But more than 10 million new single-family homes have already been built since 2000, most of them in the suburbs.

Since my students are visiting planning boards, I'll predict one change they might see. Last year the planning boards would have resisted a new neighborhood until it was clearly established that the lots would all be large enough and until the developer showed that the stormwater drainage was fully compliant with regs. Now these boards are going to be asking about something like whether there is a strong market for homes of this type and size. Or maybe they'll be looking at how the homes can be built as they are bought instead of building on spec. Anyway, I suspect that developers are going to hear some new questions from communities worried abut being left holding the bag on a half occupied subdivision when the septic tanks need to be replaced with municipal sewer.

The combination of this Atlantic piece and the Bear Stearns collapse help you see how quickly the situation could change in so many suburban communities.

Jack Dangermond on the future of GIS

This is pretty dated, but I am a little behind in my reading. In the January issue of Government Technology, Jack Dangermond talked about the future of GIS. On first read there are many interesting points, in particular is how he defines products like GoogleEarth as just being about geospatial visualization. Here is one of the questions:

Q: Is the Web-based model the future for GIS apps?

A: There's no question that the Web, Web services, and service-oriented architecture (SOA) provide a new pattern for implementing GIS systems -- just like desktop and multi-user server patterns. The central focus of the Web environment is a GIS server, such as ArcGIS Server. Increasingly this platform will be used to serve data, analytic models and maps for others to use on the Web. The server will also be the platform for supporting integration of GIS knowledge into enterprise systems.

My forecast is that as society becomes familiar with looking at things through geospatial visualization, they will be increasingly interested in services that go beyond simple maps and images. GIS servers managed by public and private GIS organizations will be used to provide these kinds of complementing services.

17 March 2008

Wayfinding with GPS changes the way you walk

On a recent trip we got a car with GPS, even without asking. On the 3rd or 4th time through the same neighborhood I realized that I still didn't know how to get through it without the navigational unit. The GPS was such a crutch that I wasn't cognizing the spatial patterns, even with repetition.

Presumably this is connected somehow to the recent findings of Toru Ishikawa, Hiromichi Fujiwara, Osamu Imai, and Atsuyuki Okabe in the Journal of Environmental Behavior. They studied the effect of GPS on walking and found that GPS slowed people down but that they ended up walking farther and stopping more than people with maps or people exploring.

Fill out those brackets

Spring Break at Rutgers coincides nicely with March Madness. The NCAA brackets are out and it is time to make your faulty picks. It is especially nice, with all of the flash apps and pdf brackets online, that I don't have to try to construct this on notebook paper like we use to in junior high school. But I'll be buying the USA Today and trying to learn a little more about minor leagues like the MAC and the PAC10.

I have formed a group at ESPN's Tournament Challenge site and all are welcome to join. Just sign up (free) and search for the FoD - Friends of Dave v.10. But before you try to beat Sagarin's computers or a 6 year old, you are going to need to learn a bit more about Gonzaga's tough path, figure out how the Big East got 8 teams, or puzzle over UNC's record 12 #1 seeds and only 5 national titles.

Fill out those brackets and get ready to regret them.

A Shamrock special site

It is a great big world with a lot of places left to learn about. But for St. Patrick's Day I wanted to post one in Ireland that sounds worth getting to know better, The Burren. Burren is a limestone region recognized as an UNESCO World Heritage site where the geology is impressive both at the surface and underground. The site is not only a unique physiological landscape, but it is also a place of great history and archeology. It is one more thing that makes Ireland unlike any other island in the world. (This is a WikiCommons photo by HEireann at en.wikipedia through a very civilized GNU Free Documentation License.)

16 March 2008

Weekend Bridge Photos

Well, these photos aren't from this weekend. But they will help us cross that bridge over into Spring Break.

14 March 2008

Indoor ski resorts vs. Owls

Way out on Long Island, the Town of Riverhead has proposed a $1.5 billion ski resort. They are going to build a 350 foot high indoor ski slope, 2,200 hotel rooms, 2,000 time shares, and a 100,000 square foot exhibit hall. But, some of the neighbors aren't as happy.

The NY Times looks at the conflict between the development and some threatened and endangeder species currently hanging out on the site. And to make things even more fun, the Town is trying to keep state environmental regulators off the site. Maybe they'll them in more this summer, while the short-eared owls are vacationing in upstate.

Newsday focused on the incredibly thin argument for allowing them to violate the existing 75 height restriction:
Developers of a proposed $1.5-billion theme park in Calverton are considering an innovative way to get approval for the park's centerpiece - a 350-foot-tall indoor ski mountain.

Mitch Pally, an attorney for Riverhead Resorts, told several Suffolk legislators yesterday that it may be possible to transfer air rights from one part of the 755-acre site to the manmade mountain, essentially giving up air rights in other parts of the park.

"It will still be lower than University Hospital at Stony Brook," he said. That 18-story building is on a hill and reaches 410 feet above sea level.
This logic implies that every single building erected on land where the elevation exceeds 75 feet is already in violation with the height restriction. So, we might as well let even the most frivolous of uses violate that apparently unenforced zoning regulation.

Still, much of our environmental and land use law treats societally valuable development - like a hospital or public park - nearly the same as a some fun and frivolous landuses like theme parks and coffee houses. If it is worth impinging a bit on anyone's property rights, then it is worth it for everyone's.

It'll be interesting to see how this one works out at the end. These first newspaper accounts will miss plenty of details, but the developer's attitude already seems like it promises a sizable confrontation over the coming months.

13 March 2008

Housing Task Force

The Star-Ledger has reported on a Housing Task Force draft report that has been poorly received by both the NJ DEP and local environmental groups. I haven't been able to read it yet, but when I see the Commissioner of Environmental Protection saying things like this, it leaves me worried:
"Affordable housing must be done in an environmentally sensitive manner," Jackson said. "I have heard a lot of people complain they can't build on flood plains. They tell me it is the only land left. Building affordable housing there would be morally wrong."
The task force was put together by the Department of Community Affairs and seems to be trying to rewrite DEP regulations. The Star-Ledger reporter describes like this:
It calls for rewriting DEP rules to make them "flexible" and giving the state Planning Commission the power to override DEP rules and local laws. It would also prevent DEP from stopping construction within 300 feet of a waterway if the area was developed in the past, and allow sewer line construction in environmentally sensitive areas.
Now, everytime any of the newspapers in our area mentions the word environment they also quote the Sierra Club's Jeff Tittel. But even his language seems more dramatic in his effort to describe this to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
"You basically have builders and people who work for builders . . . writing the environmental rules for the state of New Jersey," said Jeff Tittel, executive director of the state Sierra Club. "This proposal has really been the wish list for the builders over the past 20 years in New Jersey, many of the things that could not get passed or have been stopped because of public opinion and outrage."
All of the articles have noted that Corzine stresses that this isn't final, meaning that they'll be removing some of the more sever recommendations. I would guess that the sections that Tittel described as "unconstitutional" will be removed pretty early.

New Brunswick Keeps Growing

DEVCO and the City of New Brunswick announced plans for a new high-rise development in downtown that would house two of the theaters and solidify the reputation of New Brunswick as a theater city. This new development is proposed for Livingston Ave across from the new Heldrich Center. DEVCO has more details online. The Home News reports that this isn't the only thing going on downtown:
While several projects in the last decade have altered the city's streetscape and skyline — among them the Heldrich Hotel, Rockoff Hall, the Liberty Plaza mixed-use development, the One Spring Street apartment tower, and the revamped Middlesex County administrative and courts complex, which is across Bayard Street from the project unveiled Tuesday — others are about to get under way.

Construction on the 18-story building that will house the Stem Cell Institute of New Jersey on Little Albany Street began last year and the $130 million Gateway multi-use project that will extend from Easton Avenue and Somerset Street is set for a fall groundbreaking.

A little reading

A paper I wrote with Elizabeth Graff about Problem-based Learning and Green Maps has finally come out: Green Map Exercises as an Avenue for Problem-Based Learning in a Data-Rich Environment is in the new Journal of Geography.

12 March 2008

Lecture: Jason Husveth

Jason Husveth (RU LA '95) talked about how he is engaged in design at the interface of LA and Ecology. A key moment along the path was his participation in the EDAW Summer Study Program in Rocky Mountain NP. Another interesting stop along the way was his time at Great River Greening. Soon he focused on his work throughout Minnesota looking at wetlands, land cover and ecological design. As a designer at CCES, he started designing for more species than just humans. His work at the Anoka Sand Plains forced him to learn about a landscape that was relatively foreign to him, including the plants and the landforms.

Jason's talk highlighted the path that our ecologically-minded students can pursue. As he said, this means more reading and writing than it does drawing and designing, but it is fulfilling and has a great impact.

Frivolous Fun

As dictated by annual tradition, the FoD-Friends of Dave group is being reassembled for ESPN's NCAA Tournament Challenge. All readers of the blog are welcome to join in.

11 March 2008

RU LA Alums of the Year

A little while back someone posted a comment asking who our other alums of the year have been. I am not certain that this is a complete list, but it is pretty close;

Julius Gy Fabos
Edgar B. Brannon
Roger Wells
H. Russell Hanna
Thomas E. Wirth
Steven R. Krog
Paul T. Lettieri
Roy J. Dunn
Sheila Condon
E. Timothy Marshall
Samuel Melillo
Leslie Peoples
Stephen O’Connor
Katy Weidel
Steven Strom
Thomas Donnelly
Robert Sniekus
Andrea Cochran
John (Jack) Paul Carman
Douglas Blonsky

All in all, a pretty impressive crowd.

10 March 2008

Lecture: Ecological Design

Examples of Ecological Design Practice
Jason Husveth
Wednesday, 4PM in Room 110 Cook Douglass Lecture Hall, Cook Campus

Jason Husveth is the Principal Ecologist and President of Critical Connections Ecological Services, Inc. The firm practices ecological planning and design with specialties in natural community restoration, botanical inventories and open space planning. Jason is also involved in the Minnesota Native Plant Society and has conducted botanical inventories in many endangered habitats.

Jason graduated from Cook 15 years ago. Since then, he has developed his interest in ecological processes and plant identification. He leads numerous botanical field trips in Minnesota each year, with the emphasis including: identification of spring ephemeral species, rare species
identification, sedges of Minnesota, and identifying plants in the winter. Mr. Husveth serves on Minnesota's Regional Greenways Collaborative steering committee, where he heads the Natural Resources Management committee. Mr. Husveth has received awards from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Metro Greenways Program and the National Park Service MNNRA River Steward Program.

How's the Geomatics class going?

Here's the chance for students in 372:362 Intermediate Environmental Geomatics to offer some mid-course comments and suggestions: http://ctaar.rutgers.edu:8080/midcourse/Tulloch11372362-1.html

How's the Planning class going?

Here's the chance for students in 372:231 Fundamentals of Environmental Planning to offer some mid-course comments. Just follow the link and review the class:

Edison Transit-Oriented Development

A developer has floated a preliminary proposal for redevelopment adjacent to Edison Station. As part of the process of generating more support for the proposal, they are holding a series of public sessions where the community can offer input to help shape the project. The smallest newspaper, The Sentinal, offers the best maps and photos. But if you really want to get an idea of what they are trying to accomplish, you can visit the official site for the project at: http://edisontrain.com/.

09 March 2008

Demographic surge in college-aged students

We had a very large crowd at our admitted students open house yesterday, and I wondered why. Maybe the weather. Maybe people are connecting with environmental planning and design issues more. Maybe it really is demographics 101: the baby boomers had their boom of babies about 16-18 years ago. The NY TImes says that means this is one of the most competitive years for college admissions in a long time.

07 March 2008

Student Volunteers Needed

The 2008 MAC-URISA Conference is coming in April. It is a great opportunity for students to meet GIS professionals and see examples of what is happening in our region. Student volunteers get a free student registration to the conference, but must pay the student rate if they participate in a workshop.

If interested students should write Ken Sipos (kenneth.sipos@phila.gov) and forward their:
Name, Email, Cell Phone, Address, City, State, Zip, School

Kenneth A. Sipos, R E Specialist II
Public Property R E Division
ph 215.686.4443 fax 215.686.4428

History vs. Safety

When we were in San Francisco they were debating whether to add a special safety barrier to prevent people from jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. Of course, the last time I was in the Bay Area they were debating this too. While there might be several reasons for resistance, one reason that is often cited is the desire to avoid making changes to this beautiful historic structure. The Washington Post has just published a nice summary about the phenomenon and the debate. Some question whether you can really stop people if they really want to jump, but:
CalTrans officials point to a University of California survey's finding that nine out of 10 people prevented from jumping off the Golden Gate were still alive years later or had died of natural causes, despite the rationale that a barrier would prompt them only to "go somewhere else to end it."
Eric Steel recently made a documentary about this phenomenon, filming the bridge day after day and capturing more than a dozen jumpers in action. Even the trailer for The Bridge is not for the faint of heart. This is an emotional thing.

When we talked in class about the complexity of social issues, this is exactly what it is about. A change that saves lives sounds like a no-brainer until you hold the public hearings. A change to treasured historic monument is suddenly a challenge. And the variety of public views on suicide becomes an additional layer.

05 March 2008

3 Landscapes: Doug Blonsky

We asked Doug Blonsky to name his 3 favorite examples of landscape architecture that he has ever visited:

Central Park
Golden Gate Park
Great Park of OC (still under construction, but he is on the advisory council)

Doug Blonsky: Central Park

Doug Blonsky was honored as he 2008 RU LA Alumni of the Year.

As part of his visit, he spoke about his work at the Central Park Conservancy and the challenges facing the organization and the park. One problem is funding for day-to-day policy: "When you run out of money with a building, it catches up with you in a feew years. In a landscape it catches up almost immediately." We also see many cities and counties separating the design and operations staff, which shows in the long-term outcomes in their parks. Restoration, a common part of maintaining the park, requires a different understanding and approach.

CPC went from an informal organization to the official caretaker for Central Park. Their strategies have also evolved from informal to highly structured. Of course, the park has also transformed from graffitied and boarded up to clean and pristine. They are both very professional and yet heavily reliant upon over 200 volunteers.

But you never know what other project will pop up on short notice. Blonsky said he spent a few years working with Christo and Jean Claude to help make sure that The Gates worked out.

(The top photo is a Legoland model of Bethesda Terrace and Fountain.)

Summer GIS Internship at the Highlands Council

The Highlands Council is looking for a summer GIS intern. Details are posted on the bulletin board at CRSSA and general contact information can be found at the Highlands employment page. If I find more information in a digital format, I might update this post.

MaGrann Conference 2008: Land Use Transition in the Tropics

The 2008 MaGrann Conference*
Department of Geography, Rutgers University
Department of Ecology, Evolution & Environmental Biology, Columbia University.
Wednesday March 26th through Friday, March 28th.*

The conference begins on March 26th at Columbia University, New York, NY
On Thursday, March 27th, the conference will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. in the Cook Student Center at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
The event concludes, at the Rutgers location on Friday, March 28, 2008.

The objective of the conference is to discuss the theoretical and methodological challenges of studying human-environment relations driving different stages of land transformations in the tropics and the implications of such changes on ecosystem services and landscape management practices.

The key note speakers are Ruth DeFries (University of Maryland), Daniel Nepstad (Woods Hole Research Center) and Billie Turner (Clark University).

For information on the schedule please see the "sessions" tab on the conference website:

Strong Job outlook in Landscape Architecture

There was a report last month that LA firms are continuing to hire at a good pace. This will help keep the conversations interesting at the RU LA Department's annual Career Night on April 3rd.

04 March 2008

The GIS Effect

The current issue of Government Technology Magazine was a cover story on what they call, The CSI Effect. In a nutshell, the article describes how TV shows have conditioned the general public, particularly juries, to expect world class incontestable DNA data now before they'll convict.
If we watch enough TV, we'll assume that a CSI can conduct a DNA test at the crime scene in 30 seconds or that they can carry a small chromatograph to field test for obscure chemical compounds. They can't. But the raised expectations have become so common that the CSI effect even has its own Wikipedia entry.

So, it all gets me wondering about the GIS effect. I mean, anyone can make a decent map in MapQuest, find hidden away spots on GoogleEarth, or overlay data in i-Map, right? So surely the professionals can do much more, better, faster, etc. And when you watch that action movie, the FBI has a giant control center in all of the major cities with giant projection screens and dynamic maps tracking the bad guys and routing the gods. Right? So I imagine that people expect that their government can do all of that, and are disappointed by anything less. What do you think of the GIS effect?

03 March 2008

Central Park Lecture at Rutgers

The Central Park Conservancy:
Managing an American Masterpiece of Landscape Architecture

Douglas Blonsky
Recipient of the 2008 Outstanding Alumni Award from the Department of
Landscape Architecture

This week our seminar will be given by another of our alumni. Douglas Blonsky has served as President of the Central Park Conservancy since 2004. During his ten years as Administrator for the Central Park Conservancy, he has led a diverse range of projects within this icon of landscape
architecture. As his title indicates, he will talk about the competing responsibilities he faces in protecting this historic landscape in a public and densely populated setting.

Room 110 Cook Douglass Lecture Hall
Wednesday, March 5

Time to relax and watch TV?

So, you've just finished that tough mid-term exam and you want to kick back for a couple of hours and relax? Try the Architecture films list from DVD Ideas. Their top 40 include documentaries and dramas and even a suspenseful thriller.

Hopeworks on TV

The Philadelphia Fox station ran a news feature on HopeworksNCamen's DCCB community mapping project. They have created an Internet interface that allows users to post locations of community concerns, like abandoned vehicles or street lights that are out, requiring an official response. When they don't get a quick response, the map markers turn colors to illustrate patterns of non-response. For instance, it looks like the Eastern part of the City (District 4) has a much lower response rate to posted problems.


I've talked up Ken McCown once or twice before. But this design with Kevin Hinders and Andy Wilcox for Elysian and Silver Lakes absolutely takes the cake. The plan looks at ways to build meaningful landscapes that also serve the critically important function of cleaning up these toxic lakes. It is a great example of landscape architects can do restoration work that is still visibly about design. (A big h/t to Pruned)

02 March 2008

Kudzu pictures

As a follow-up to a class conversation, here are a few links to photos of kudzu, one of the ultimate invasive plants:
From The Carnivorous Plant FAQ
From the USDA's Invasive.org
Called Kudzu-The Vine

New wetlands along the Mississippi

NewScientist had a news item about a proposal to "grow" the currently diminished Mississippi River Delta in Louisiana. This would keep sediment and eroded soil from washing out into the deepest parts of the Gulf, create new habitat and land, and create a new buffer for New Orleans against storms.

"You keep the sediment within the coastal boundary current that keeps it running along the shoreline, whereas now it gets ejected into the Gulf," adds Robert Twilley, of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, who worked with Parker on the project.

(h/t PlaNetizen)

01 March 2008

Graduate Open House

From the desk of the chair...

We are moving forward with plans for the Rutgers graduate program in Landscape Architecture.

On Saturday, March 15, we will have an open house at in the Department of Landscape Architecture for prospective graduate students. We will provide information about the plan for the program, application and admission process and answer questions.

Time: 10 - 2
Place: 152 Blake Hall, Cook Campus, Rutgers University
Food: Lunch will be served

Please let JeanMarie Hartman (JHartman(at)RCI.Rutgers.Edu) know if you plan to attend.

RotDs 2008: Part I

1. EnvPlan class website
2. Ian McHarg and Design With Nature
3. Phil Lewis
4. USGS Topographic Quad Sheets
5. County Soils Survey
6. Magazines - Landscape Architecture, Planning, etc.
7. Geographic Exploration Systems (aka Virtual Globes)
8. Planning Weblogs, like PlaNetizen
9. TRI Data and TRK.Net
10. NRIs and ERIs


Someone asked about how the USLE gets used in real life. Well, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has a nice USLE Fact Sheet online. And Dane County, Wisconsin has a USLE tool to help improve its application. I don't know if that answers the question, but those two links offer more info than most EnvPLan students will ever want about the USLE.

Spend the night with Frank Lloyd Wright

Thanks to the folks at Polymath Park, you can spend the night in Frank Lloyd Wright's Duncan House. Or, is Pennsylvania isn't your kind of place, the NY Times reports on some other Wright homes for rent.