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Fabos Conference: Building a Movement

By Brenda Barrett April 30, 2013

Landscape architects, regional planners, academics, and students from over 20 countries gathered at the University of Massachusetts Amherst for the Fabos Conference on Landscape and Greenway Planning (April 11-12, 2013). The conference theme was Pathways to Sustainability, but what really brought them together was Julius Gy. Fabos now Emeritus Professor in Landscape Architecture Department. Over his long and distinguished career, he has written the book Greenways: The Beginning of an International Movement (Elsevier, 1996) as well as hundreds of articles on the greenway movement, but even more importantly he attracted students from all over the world. His students went forth and implemented these ideas in Portugal, India, China, and beyond. The Fabos conference is held every three years alternating between the United States and Europe – the 2010 conference was held in Budapest. The goal is bring together experts who are influencing landscape planning, policy making and greenway planning from the local to international level.  The event was all of that and more with the celebratory vibe of a 25th anniversary class reunion.

Another landscape scale movement, the heritage areas, held a brief retrospective at the Fabos Conference.  The heritage area idea was founded in many of same impulses as the early greenway approach. Glenn Eugester, retired NPS, traces their evolution to related strategies to coordinate natural resource conservation, historic preservation, land use and economic development on a regional scale. Moderated by U Mass- Amherst Professor Ethan Carr, the panel provided a backward glance on the origins of the heritage area movement. Paul Bray and David Sampson traced the important legacy of both the greenway and heritage programs in the state of New York. Eleanor Mahoney reviewed the significant contribution National Heritage Areas have played in preserving industrial history and the landscapes of American labor.  I summarized what we can learn from evaluations of twelve of the early National Heritage Areas about successful regional scale management over a period of fifteen to twenty years. The four papers from this panel are available in the Research and Writing section of the Living Landscape Observer.

Next year the National Heritage Area idea will turn thirty and it is time for reflection and taking stock.  Until the Fabos Conference, I never thought that much about the nexus between academia and changing the world.  Paul Bray summed it up “I was impressed with the success Julius Fabos has had in scattering the seeds for greenways in many nations.” The heritage area movement needs their own Johnny Appleseed to nurture the idea, write the book, and engage the next generation of practitioners.

Read all the conference proceedings here.

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Signs of the Landscape Times

By Eleanor Mahoney August 27, 2012

Hudson River view from Poughkeepsie

A few weeks ago, I drove from New York City to Montreal, Canada. Over the course of four days, I explored the Hudson River Valley, eastern Adirondacks and Lake Champlain region, all among the Northeast’s most iconic large landscapes. During the trip, I encountered a fair amount of signage, identifying or marking the landscape in different ways. What follows are some general thoughts on what I found – I am also interested in learning what others think, have done or have learned about using signage to create awareness of place.

Highway signs:What does it mean to pass a sign, while going 70 miles per hour that reads, “Entering [insert name here] landscape/heritage area/trail/ etc? For most visitors, I would hazard to say little to nothing if (important if) that is all there is! I only have anecdotal data to support this claim, but multiple friends and relatives have told me they passed heritage area road signs for years (in the case of my own father for over 10 years) and never knew what to make of them until I began working for the program and explained its significance. One recommendation I would offer is that these signs link-up to an actual place a visitor can exit and get information, even if it is an unmanned kiosk at a rest stop. So, instead of just “Entering [insert name here] landscape/heritage area/trail/ etc,” the sign should read Entering [insert name here] landscape/heritage area/trail/ etc – Stop at Exit 1 for information.” Obviously, it is impossible to go back and change all the existing signs, but, in the future, it might be worthwhile to consider this approach.

Hyde Park, Home of Franklin Roosevelt National Historic Site

The Importance of Hubs:One of the stops on my drive was Hyde Park, the Home of Franklin Roosevelt National Historic Site. This is one of the most highly touristed sites in the Hudson River Valley and draws regional, national and international visitors. As such, it can (and hopefully does) serve as a springboard for visitation to other interesting, but lesser known, locations. A great use of a sign I saw at Hyde Park was a map that showed the boundaries of the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area and identified multiple points of interest. Many visitors stopped and looked at the map (always draw people in) and discussed possible visits. In considering how best to create informational signage like this for large landscapes, prioritizing quality signage at a highly visited hub like Hyde Park seems important because many of those stopping may only be familiar with 1 or 2 such sites. Another idea might be to identify sites by driving distance. While it seems less interesting than thematic grouping, it might make more sense for trip planning purposes.

Tourist vs. Resident – One of my favorite stops was a state park near the highway in New York where we stopped to stretch our legs. The park had free parking nearby and most of the visitors appeared to be local residents out for an evening stroll. There was a large amount of conspicuous signage, but no one seemed to be reading it. The signage discussed both natural and cultural history. I wondered, when a park serves residents of a large landscape, rather than tourists – what kind of information is best? Do residents read signs? Are they (it seems obvious) in a different mindset than a tourist who has set out to visit a specific place to learn its story. What are the best ways to generate a dialogue/ interpret a landscape for those who live there, such that they can offer their expertise on the place and possibly learn something new as well in a setting as informal as a riverside walking trail?

Do organizations keep track of their signs effective or conduct cost/benefit analysis?

Have you seen great landscape-scale signage?

Please, share your ideas/thoughts!

 

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