Student team wins Green Space Design award

April 12, 2001

Student team wins Green Space Design award ANN ARBOR—A team of graduate students in the School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE) at the University of Michigan has placed first in a national Green Space Design competition.

The U-M team won the first place award last month for its plan to protect scenic and ecological resources while accommodating future growth in Utah’s Snyderville Basin. Open to landscape architecture and planning students throughout the country, the competition required them to analyze, design, and implement a community-wide green space system for this world-class ski resort area.

The four students on the winning team drew upon their work in SNRE’s Landscape Architecture and Resource Policy and Behavior Programs. Team members are: William Mangle of Fort Collins, Colo.; Maggie McDonald of Portland, Ore.; Clea Rome of Rochester, Minn.; and Mimi Mather of Denver, Colo. Donna Erickson, associate professor of natural resources and chair of the Landscape Architecture Program, was the team’s faculty adviser.

“These students are particularly sincere about conservation planning and had the ideal combination of skills—in land use planning and policy, conservation biology, and Geographical Information Systems (GIS)—to address the problems of this project,” said Erickson. “The award speaks to the quality of the School’s graduate students and their ability to do interdisciplinary work.”

The competition was sponsored by Swaner Design, a Utah-based landscape architecture firm and its nonprofit arm, Swaner Nature Preserve, and by MJ.M Community Builders. The winning team received a $5,000 scholarship and expense-paid trip for two to the National Green Space Design Conference held March 1-3 in Park City, Utah.

The project’s planning area, 80 square miles of the Snyderville Basin, is home to Park City Ski Resort and will host several events during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. Valued for its alpine beauty and rich natural habitats, the area has become increasingly vulnerable to development pressures. [Map of region]

The U-M team spent three months working toward its goal: to create an interconnected system of green space sufficient to preserve the cultural and natural heritage of this choice portion of Summit County. The plan attempts to balance the needs of both human and ecological communities.

“We tried to pursue an intersection between natural core areas and developments that would protect sensitive land without locking everything up from development,” Mangle said.

Using GIS data and public input from Basin residents, the team constructed a series of maps that illustrate their CEDAR analysis of the planning area. A key component of the Green Space Design concept, CEDAR stands for cultural, ecological, developmental, agricultural, and recreational resources. The Green Space approach inventories and evaluates all these resources to develop a comprehensive resource protection strategy.

Knowing that increased development around the area’s upscale communities is inevitable, the team tried to make the plan functional and flexible for a variety of uses—providing they do not impinge on wildlife areas.

“Our plan emphasizes connectivity between natural, undeveloped areas and public parks through greenways and trail connections,” said Rome.

The design also calls for preservation of cultural resources that give the Basin community a “sense of place.” The team therefore included historic mining sites, a ranch homestead, and other reminders of the area’s heritage in their CEDAR analysis.

The students acknowledge they have recommended fairly tough regulations for development plans within their proposed Green Space network.

“The objective is to push the bounds of planning and suggest innovative measures to achieve conservation goals,” said Mather. Added McDonald: “That is, within existing legal and political structures. We had to research all those. We realize that some of our proposals require rezoning that will need much grass-roots support from local conservation groups.”

Among other recommendations are the awarding of density bonuses to developers who voluntarily exceed the minimum requirements of the Green Space Ordinance and measures to promote higher density, village-style communities rather than scattered development.

The students see their Green Space Design as a 20-year plan. They hope city and county planners will consider their vision and emphasize land use ecology as they manage development in the Basin.

“The team’s design includes innovative ideas for directing growth and prioritizing open space connections,” said Erickson. “I think this plan can be replicated throughout the country in many places that are facing similar growth issues.”

Further information on the Green Space Design is at

School of Natural Resources and EnvironmentSnyderville BasinLandscape ArchitecturePark CityMap of