Historic American Landscapes Survey in Florida
by David Driapsa, ASLA

Administrative Structure of HALS and ASLA in Florida 

The Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) was established only recently in Florida and now is growing vigorously within the ASLA Florida Chapter. In 2006, the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) appointed David Driapsa as the HALS First District Officer, and ASLA concurrently appointed him as HALS Liaison. A HALS program was subsequently established, and the HALS Subcommittee in the ASLA Florida Chapter Executive Committee was formed.

Florida has approximately one thousand ASLA members represented in ten sections and three state universities in Florida. The Florida Chapter HALS Subcommittee consists of one member from each of the ten sections and one from each of the three universities, for a total of thirteen members. The committee also includes the Chair and ex officio members of Chapter Trustees, a liaison from the Chapter Government Affairs Committee, and a Member-At-Large with voting privileges in the Chapter Executive Committee.

ASLA and the Florida Chapter require that each HALS Subcommittee member be a member of the ASLA. National ASLA’s requirement are outlined in the Leadership & Governance Appointment and Duties document and in the Memorandum of Understanding between ASLA, the NPS, and the Library of Congress. To enable the participation of non-ASLA members, the Florida Chapter created a Friend of HALS membership category. This was desirable and necessary, and opened the program to participation of some of its most productive members.        

ASLA members in Florida are concentrated in major cities of the state, separated by distances that make it difficult to attend face-to-face meetings. The goal of the committee is to hold at one annual face-to-face meeting during the Chapter Annual Meeting, Awards Ceremony, and Expo.

Given the difficulty of holding regular meetings, and recognizing that communications are vitally important for an organization to succeed, Subcommittee members write monthly reports to the Chair describing the HALS activities, and the Chair writes a monthly report to the Chapter Executive Committee, which is included in the meeting agenda package. Requests also are sent to the ex officio at-large member for actions requiring a consideration or a vote from the Chapter Executive Committee. 

The Chair attends quarterly face-to-face meetings of the Chapter Executive Committee and reports on recent HALS activities. It is particularly important for the Chair to attend these meetings as the representative of HALS. Face-to-face contacts are opportunities for expanding the HALS constituency.

Success in Outreach and Education 

To expand knowledge and awareness of HALS to ASLA members, a PowerPoint slideshow was designed for the Chapter meetings. The Florida State Board of Business and Professional Regulation approved the slideshow as a course for one unit of continuing education credit. The credit created a captive audience, and the fees charged to members for attending the course were donated back to the Chapter as a quid pro quo for supporting HALS. Last year, when Executive Meetings were held in various Chapter sections around the state, the slideshow was individualized to focus on historic landscapes of each location.      

This year, a historic landscapes tour was conducted during the Chapter Annual Meeting as both continuing education and as a form of outreach opportunity for HALS. The Florida State Board of Business and Professional Regulation approved the tour as a course for four units of continuing education credits, and again, the fees charged for attending the tour were donated back to the Chapter. The comments were very favorable, and another historic landscapes course is being planned for the 2010 Florida Chapter Annual Meeting.

Educating students and emerging professionals about HALS is also an essential duty.  As part of educational outreach, a HALS PowerPoint was presented to landscape architecture students at the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University and the University of Florida. They are receiving additional HALS education through their coursework and projects. Professor Rocco Ceo, Director of the Undergraduate Program in Architecture at the University of Miami, has taught a course in HALS documentation modeled on the course curriculum written by Paul Dolinsky, Chief of HALS. Students have also completed measured drawings, a short history, and site photographs of Fennel’s Orchid Jungle—the first successful HALS project submitted to the NPS and entered as HALS FL-04.

Education and outreach have expanded beyond the boundaries of ASLA and universities. More recently, the ASLA Florida Chapter successfully lobbied the Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources, to amend Section 267.021 of the Florida Statutes to include “historic landscapes” in Florida’s legal definition of “historic property” or “historic resource.”

The Future of Historic Landscapes in Florida 

The initial years of HALS in Florida were focused entirely on creating an organization within the ASLA Chapter. With an organization in place, training members in landscape documentation followed. Now committee members are beginning to document historic landscapes of the state. The documentation task is huge. Florida has listed twenty-two ASLA Medallion Sites, but many others would qualify.

The HALS list of Florida historic landscapes includes sites of local, state, and national significance. The list identifies individual and thematic landscapes, such as antebellum plantations across the northern tier of Florida, the many Olmsted-designed landscapes, the remarkable density of projects in Lake Wales and Polk County, and contributions of many northern landscape architects. Additionally, the Florida State Park system, which was initiated through the Civilian Conservation Corps has included more historic landscapes on the state’s list. Forty-six parks are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but few have been documented as historic landscapes. Many of the national parks in Florida also include historic sites. Overall, the Florida landscape is ancient, with a great diversity of historical places from four centuries of settlement laid over the remains from millennia of prehistoric settlement.

The maturing of the HALS organization lies ahead, and with it the greater integration of historic landscapes in landscape architecture practices within the state, better government recognition and regulation of historic landscape preservation, expanded landscape documentation curricula in state universities, and development of a corps of professionals necessary to manage the heritage landscapes of the state.

The Economic Impact of Historic Preservation in Florida 

The Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources, conducted a study of the economic impacts of historic preservation in Florida and examined the economic benefits of state investment in historic preservation. It concluded that investments in historic preservation yield over $4 billion annually, a benefit directly attributable to public funding for historic preservation work.

What does historic preservation mean for Florida landscape architects? Florida provides $10-15 million annually to historic preservation projects, including cultural resource surveys, preservation planning, and to restoration and rehabilitation projects.

Six in ten visitors participate in some history-based activities while vacationing in Florida. While Florida’s tourism is better known for its theme parks, which pump millions of dollars into the state’s economy annually, tourism steeped in history is a growing segment of the tourist economy.

In sum, preservation of historic landscapes contributes to the Florida economy. If you would like to learn more, please read the Economic Impacts of Historic Preservation In Florida, published by the Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources with funding assistance from the National Park Service, United States Department of the Interior (September 2002).

David Driapsa, ASLA, serves as the HALS Liaisons Coordinator for ASLA, and is Chair of  Florida’s ASLA HALS Subcommittee. He is also President of David J Driapsa Landscape Architect Chartered in Naples, Florida, and can be reached at agarden@naples.net. 

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Andrew Kohr, ASLA, Chair
(678) 689-2377

Earen Hummel, ASLA, Vice Chair
(970) 484-6073

Tina Bishop, ASLA, Chair-Elect
(303) 477-5244

David Driapsa, ASLA, HALS Coordinator
(239) 591-2321