Landslide 2017’s theme is Open Season on Open Space.
By Katarina Katsma, ASLA
In a time of great upheaval for the United States, it is hard to keep track of the many risks to our national landscapes. Even our nationally recognized and federally protected sites are under threat from privatization or lax oversight, making them vulnerable to destructive practices that place monetary gain over equitable enjoyment of parkland. Open Season on Open Space, this year’s Landslide program from the Cultural Landscape Foundation, minces no words on this subject, calling out municipalities, states, and the federal government for undermining a century’s worth of progress for our public lands, parks, and national monuments.
The reclamation of urban parks for future development is a slippery slope. Appropriating parkland for a presidential library could be considered of exceptional merit. But once such land has been taken from Chicago’s Jackson Park, it could set a precedent for future development or change the criteria for what is considered exceptional and therefore worthy of erasing park space.
Landslide considers the monetization of open space and weakening of park equity as the biggest threats to Jackson Park. These, along with detrimental effects of shadows, resource extraction, and the devaluation of cultural lifeways, make up Landslide’s five central themes. And it is the last two that loom greatest over the Antiquities Act of 1906, an act pivotal in the protection of federally owned lands now under siege by the country’s current administration.
The threat to our open space may not necessarily be from land use. With recent rezoning of the neighborhood surrounding Greenacre Park in New York, the possibility of perpetual shadow could damage precious park space in an area almost completely dominated by hardscape and high-rises. Although the selected open spaces only begin to account for the landscapes in danger of erasure, they work to remind us of the long road ahead in the preservation and maintenance of America’s cultural landscapes for generations to come.
Bears Ears National Monument is one of 27 national monuments protected by the Antiquities Act of 1906 that has come under scrutiny by the current administration. The Department of the Interior claimed that these monuments were designated without adequate public outreach. This could allow for the rescinding of protection or redrawing of boundaries, potentially opening the sites to mining and drilling.
Nashville’s only remaining Civil War-era fort, Works Progress Administration amenities, and the foundations of an African American neighborhood developed after the Civil War all make up the rich historical fabric of Fort Negley Park. A now-abandoned stadium and parking lot built in the late 1970s were recently bid out for mixed-use development, despite the city’s promises that this space would return to parkland.
A recent conditional permit given to Dominion Virginia Power by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would bring the development of 27 power towers (the highest at 295 feet), significantly altering James River vistas from historical sites such as Jamestown Island.
Once a part of the Milwaukee County Asylum for the Insane grounds (the last building was demolished in 1994), Sanctuary Woods has recently come under threat from a proposed multifamily residential development and a linear scenic parkway that would cut through the middle of the site.
One of Boston’s most notable open spaces and a preamble to the city’s park system, Boston Common has served as a place of respite for more than a century. In July 2017, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Barker signed an exemption to the city’s 1990 shadow law, allowing for a proposed 700-foot tower near the park. If built, the building would cast a significant shadow over the park for 264 days of the year.
A new transportation hub proposal could seize land from the Rhode Island State House Grounds and park. It’s happened there before, and could very well again. With current state regulations, special approval would be needed for this mixed-use project, opening the way for potential future development.
Opening just a few years after neighboring Paley Park in Manhattan, Greenacre Park makes up part of only 2 percent of green space in the neighborhood. Recent rezoning could lead to construction of taller buildings in the area, throwing the light-sensitive honey locusts and other plantings into shade.
After a controversial bid to win the Barack Obama Presidential Library for the city of Chicago, parkland was transferred from public trust to secure the site for development. Since the winning bid, the library—now the Barack Obama Presidential Center— has claimed more parkland for the project and proposed a multistory parking garage and an expansion to the Jackson Park Golf Course.
Audubon Park and City Park in New Orleans face an increased risk as slices have been carved out of them since the 1970s for clubhouses, golf courses, and other private development. While some proposed projects in these parks have been axed, a few still remain as a threat to the open, naturalistic setting.
Landscape Architecture Magazine is an official media sponsor of the Cultural Landscape Foundation’s Open Season on Open Space. For a complete description of each theme and project, go to www.tclf.org.