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American Society of Landscape Architects

 

December 2006 Issue

A New Country Place Ethic for a New Country Place Era
Deep pockets and environmental consciousness coexist on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

By Susan Hines

A New Country Place Ethic for a New Country Place Era Graham Landscape Architecture

Situated on the banks of the Choptank River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Tidewater Farm’s 400-plus acres represent a new order of country estate where hundreds of acres are amassed not as a showplace of wealth but rather a showcase for the region’s distinct ecology and farming traditions. Typical of the Chesapeake Bay drainage basin, the landscape is both agricultural and coastal. Not so typical at this country place, the vernacular holds sway aesthetically, and the agricultural tradition is celebrated, even as the owners embrace more ecologically sensitive practices than their predecessors.

“It’s a movement similar to the country house estate era, but shaped by different forces,” says Jay Graham, FASLA, of Graham Landscape Architecture in Annapolis, Maryland. “People with money and a certain ethic are buying these tired farms on the Eastern Shore. They are products of the Earth Day generation and receptive to the notion that you can leave this land better than you found it.”

Widespread application of this stewardship ethic could preserve a region that is becoming known as “the new Long Island.” More and more city slickers are flocking to this mainly rural area of Maryland looking for expansive vacation properties at relatively modest prices. These newcomers are largely unaware of what it means to own hundreds of acres of farmland in an ecologically sensitive watershed.

“When people buy on the Eastern Shore, they generally have a city or suburban mind-set,” explains Graham’s colleague, Arthur Balter, Associate ASLA. With their suburban landscape architect in tow, he says, some clients end up building a new landscape that erases the character that drew them to the area. “We help them understand what this new asset is. They don’t realize, for example, that if you don’t protect the shoreline, you are going to lose what you bought.”

“The trend is from farming to housing subdivisions,” says Kevin Campion,

ASLA. Yet, protecting the agricultural landscape that attracts these buyers in the first place is essential to maintaining the Eastern Shore’s unique culture and sense of place. Campion, Graham Landscape Architecture’s project manager for Tidewater Farm, notes the benefits of this approach. “There has to be land for farmers to farm or they will give up. Then you will have houses and subdivisions and development and sprawl.”

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