I spent the last two weeks of my internship developing three conceptual trailhead design alternatives for the GGNRA’s newest acquisition, Rancho Corral de Tierra. I implemented a familiar design concept- emphasizing the arrival sequence as a long-term priority, and splitting it into four zones. I was very inspired by Pratt’s Hopewell project with this- the arrival sequence at Hopewell was something I thought about often during the spring semester, but the overall direction of our studio work at Rutgers required me to focus on other aspects of Hopewell. When I saw Pratt’s work, I felt reassured that I was thinking along the same lines, and realized that this idea is also relevant in many national parks. It is especially appropriate for my design site because experientially, a smooth transition from getting to the park to being in the park itself is very important due to the character of the different experiences (i.e. driving on a highway, a challenging half-day hike) and I was able to take advantage of the location, position, and dimensions of the site to not only solve many of the existing problems but also maintain the quality and integrity of the arrival sequence. (I won’t go into all the details here, but if anyone wants to hear more about it, feel free to email me).
And so, I presented my work, took one last good look at my office and the view of the city from my window, said goodbye to everyone I had gotten to know this summer, and went on my way to enjoy one last week in California before returning home. It’s been a couple of weeks since I arrived home in New Jersey, and with things falling into place at the beginning of the semester, I frequently look back on my internship in San Francisco with a wide grin on my face. As a landscape architecture student, the distinction between my personal life and academic life has become so blurred that most people, including myself, can no longer tell the difference. I’m fortunate in that my internship was as much a great job and great learning experience as it was a meaningful and fulfilling life experience that I’ll never forget. Out of the six P4P principles, engagement of all people is the one which stayed at the forefront of my thought process throughout the project. In order to accomplish this I included in each of the alternatives a dedicated place for local artwork (and not for nothing- because right now the local artwork is hung on the walls of the sandwich shop down the road). This is just one way, one idea that seemed appropriate to the locale. There are infinite ways to engage people, waiting to be discovered. Looking back and reflecting on the internship, I think about the implications of my work, and the work I’ve seen from the other interns, and I get the feeling that this is only the beginning of a new age for the Park Service, one in which not only is the human support system protected but the people themselves, the outsiders, are brought in. I imagine that in the GGNRA it isn’t too hard to engage people, considering the wealth and diversity of awe-inspiring things to see, do, and learn about. Other parks, like Hopewell, may find it more challenging. But either way, I believe that the NPS will soon be a conduit of environmental awareness to all people, because nature and history are their common denominator.
On my last day, right before I left the office I was sharing some final thoughts with Brian Aviles, my supervisor, mentor, and friend, and I said to him, “I think I realized why I focused so much on the arrival sequence. It’s the musician in me. I see the different parts of the landscape as notes written on a sheet, but you have to move through it to make the music come alive.”