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Merit Award -- Analysis & Planning

James Monroe Birthplace Park Master Plan
Westmoreland County, Virginia

Susan Nelson-Warren Byrd Landscape Architects: Warren T. Byrd, ASLA, Lara Call, Emmanuel Didier, Sue Dempsey, Hunter McCardle, Pete O'Shea, Anne Russell

Warren Byrd
Principal, Susan Nelson-Warren Byrd Landscape Architects
408 Park Street
Charlottesville, VA 22902
Tel: 434-984-1358
Fax: 434-984-4158
jkelley@nelson-byrd.com

Statement of Purpose: The landscape architect was commissioned by the County of Westmoreland, Virginia to prepare a master plan for a multi-phase development of James Monroe's Birthplace site. The county's desire was to create a unique, economical, and attractive park that celebrates the birth and life of our nation's fifth president, James Monroe, while providing passive recreation for the local residents. In order to meet these desires, the county wanted the master plan to provide general design strategies for the construction of a roadside parking area, installation of interpretive signs, archaeological interpretation, the development of bicycle and walking tails, an understanding of the phasing and budget, and any other improvements deemed necessary and desirable.

Community Context: There are currently four primary land uses adjacent to the James Monroe Birthplace site. This means that there is potential for development pressure immediately surrounding the site. In order to preserve the historic and scenic aspect of the site, the master plan calls for the establishment of conservation easements and land use restrictions on adjacent properties. The park will fit into a network of bicycle routes, canoe routes, birding trails, and historic tours that are all economically pertinent to the county. The master plan calls for the protection and preservation of all archaeological resources while emphasizing community outreach through volunteer research and investigation. The site offers an excellent opportunity for school groups, Boy and Girl Scouts, and other interested parties to study and understand ecological habitats. Proper forest management is intended to provide long-term benefits for the park by producing yields of timber for profit, educating the public on sustainable forestry, and attracting wildlife. Managing the proposed meadow can be tied into forest management while providing an excellent opportunity to help restore the state's declining Bobwhite Quail population.

Role of the landscape architect/entrant vs. the role of other participants, including owner/client and collaborators: The landscape architect was the primary consultant with responsibility for all aspects of the master plan preparation and was influenced by a series of meetings and presentations where input was gathered from Westmoreland County's residents and public officials. The master planning process included comprehensive documentation and analysis of the site and its geographic and historical relationship to its context. Through investigating maps and narrative on James Monroe, his family, and Westmoreland County, the site's cultural and natural history was chronicled. Evaluation of opportunities and constraints were performed in conjunction with potential program and site issues. Composed within the body of a descriptive narrative, the produced document includes pertinent mappings, proposed plans and vignettes.

Special Factors: The site of James Monroe's birth affords a distinct opportunity for interpreting the overlapping conditions of both cultural and natural histories. This master planning process will serve as a catalyst for defining how the site is used in the future as part of the public domain. While the life of James Monroe will serve literally as the structural and symbolic spine of the site, the place will also be defined by the continuous transformation and evolution of the forest and meadows, the fluctuation s of light and weather, the cycles of seasons, and by the way people engage it: daily, seasonally, and across generations.

Significance: The site can be a model of how to build and maintain development respectful to its ecosystem. Low impact recreational activities proposed are in keeping with the ecological conservation efforts and program of the park. Reclaimed and recycled building materials are proposed for pavilions, boardwalks, signs, and edging. The emphasis of storm water management on site could play an important role in educating developers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed on the importance of water and habitat conservation. Creating demonstration plots for sustainable forestry provides a useful education tool while making the site visible to science -based researchers. Protecting and preserving all resources associated with James Monroe's birth is beneficial for the enjoyment and education of the public. These long-term plans would be an important tool for tying in the local community with state and nation wide education programs.

Client Statement: The James Monroe Birthplace Park Master Plan provides a vision that creates a long-term strategy for the future development of a historical public park. The plan allocates space to meet all programmatic goals, circulation and parking, preservation of historic and natural areas, and interprets the life of James Monroe while giving the visitor the best possible experience. The landscape architect exceeded our objective by reaching out to the local community through incorporating a wide range of educational and research initiatives. The plan is a firm guide for the County to pursue a renewal of the site.

2002 Award Winners
Press Releases
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