University of Georgia
April 2015
Sustainable practices

An acre-sized pond, created by exposing groundwater, is one of the many new features in Canarsie Park. The park's eastern area was created in the 1800s with sports fields and tree-lined paths. Since then, it's housed a launch pad for anti-aircraft missiles (in the 1950s) and a composting site by the New York City Department of Sanitation (in the 1990s). Now, the park is filled with walkways, a meadow, grasslands, woodlands and forested wetlands, with more than 90 kinds of trees and shrubs and 100 varieties of wildflowers, according to New York’s District Council 37.

Sustainable practices

UGA CED alumna is transforming landscapes in New York.

Alumna Katherine Bridges, who received her Bachelor of Landscape Architecture degree in 1977, proudly represents the University of Georgia and the College of Environment and Design in the Big Apple.

As landscape architect for the New York City Parks and Recreation Department, a position she has held since 1989, Bridges has overseen landscape design projects in Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn and more. Her influence, aesthetic and skills can be seen across the city’s vast network of boroughs and neighborhoods.

In December 2014, Bridges was the recipient of the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation’s Built by Women New York City Award for her work restoring Canarsie Park in Brooklyn. The Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation strives to change the culture of the building industry so that women’s work is acknowledged, respected and valued. Canarsie Park, a 133-acre park located in Brooklyn, languished for decades and was overgrown with vegetation when the local community and elected officials came together to turn the rundown park into a natural and vivid site for outdoor recreation. Using sustainable practices, which she cultivated as an undergraduate student at UGA, Bridges was able to transform Canarsie Park.

Bridges and a team of landscape architects took advantage of the park’s proximity to Jamaica Bay and were able to expose groundwater to naturally create almost an acre of open water. The park also retains all storm water, has no hookup to outside sewers and was contoured and graded for optimal natural drainage.

The park, which was designed to be low-maintenance and environmentally sustainable, also features erosion control measures to preserve the land in the years to come. In addition, Bridges and her team took advantage of materials, such as aged leaf compost and asphalt millings, that were left behind by the park’s previous tenants, the New York City Department of Sanitation. The millings became the base for walking paths and the compost provided natural fertility to the soil around the park property.

“Perhaps it was the good training at the College of Environment and Design, but I have always incorporated what are now called ‘sustainable practices’ into my projects,” Bridges said. “The College of Environment and Design has an excellently well-rounded program. In addition to design excellence, I learned skills in the principles of ecology, sensitivity to the site and engaging the community.”

It’s clear that Bridges’ time at UGA had a lasting impact on her approach to land preservation and design. Producing well-trained, well-rounded and thoughtful landscape architects is just one of the many ways UGA’s College of Environment and Design is shaping the world around us.

As a representative of the college and UGA, Bridges has been featured in Georgia Magazine, has participated in the artist-in-residence program with the UGA Studies Abroad in Cortona Program and has returned to Athens to speak to current landscape architecture students on several occasions.

Are you interested in supporting the College of Environment and Design’s landscape architecture program? Consider making a gift to the Georgia Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects Undergraduate Endowment, which provides undergraduate scholarship support to a full-time student in the Landscape Architecture program.

— Jamie E. Lewis, Development and Alumni Relations