The master plan establishes Overlook Farm as an exemplary working landscape, founded on principles of ecological conservation, sustainable agricultural production, and cultural preservation. The Landscape Architect collaborated with the client to re-envision Overlook - a cultural heritage landscape, in Dalton, Pennsylvania. Purchased in 1902, the family’s ancestors commissioned the Olmsted firm to design and implement plans for what was to be a summer retreat. After 100 years of connection to the land, the client desired to honor this family legacy through a re-envisioning of the property. The design team has created a master plan which resets the site’s ecosystems, celebrates its cultural heritage and establishes a model of agricultural production that complements the ecological services of the site. The plan offers implementation strategies that rely on thoughtful design initiatives for the health, productivity and profitability of the Overlook landscape sustainably into the future.
A cultural heritage landscape, Overlook is a 320-acre estate located in Dalton, Pennsylvania. After over 100 years of multi-generational family ownership, the clients sought to honor their family's long history with the land by engaging the Landscape Architect to create a master plan to assure the health, productivity and profitability of the Overlook landscape for future generations. The Overlook Farm master plan’s objective was to create an exemplary working landscape, founded on principles of ecological preservation and stewardship, sustainable agricultural production and cultural preservation implemented through thoughtful design initiatives.
The preservation and interpretation of cultural landscapes is fundamental to the Stewardship Plan for Overlook. The Landscape Architect had the opportunity to restore and embellish several elements of the original Olmsted landscape centered on the historic formal gardens. Through research at the Olmsted Archives the design team gained access to most of the preserved drawings from the original Master Plan. Review of these documents formed the basis for the design of the historic core, which interweaves the familial and cultural landscape while placing the precinct within a larger working environment of production and experimentation.
The design process was informed by the firm’s Conservation Agriculture Studio (ConAg), a strategic association of designers, scientists, and master farmers working collaboratively to re-envision the productive and symbolic potential of cultivated landscapes. The ConAg studio at Overlook uncovered and expressed its unique character and ecology, while augmenting existing and future agrarian opportunities. Protection and preservation of resources (ecological, cultural, and aesthetic) were considered in parallel with the benefit of productive conservation and education.
The guide to establishing the ecological preservation and restoration protocol occurred through the collection of a baseline survey of Overlook and documenting existing ecological conditions. The designers along with a distinguished group of ecologists from the Roosevelt Wildlife Station in Syracuse, New York collaborated for the collection and observation of wildlife of Overlook. Results and recommendations were organized into the categories of Fishes, Insects, Amphibians, Birds, Plants and Mammals. Overlook’s layered history and ecology (Olmsted plans, renditions and remnant form) were uncovered during design research and site analysis, ultimately inspiring the direction of the master plan. The resulting information was synthesized with possible habitat range to generate population estimates to be designed into the long term plan of the property. With this data in hand, the design team was able to tailor master plan design implementations to the precise needs and requirements of the site.
The master plan provides guidance for the preservations and augmentation of hydrologic systems and elements on site including vernal pools, lakes, boardwalks, and braided wetlands. In order to amplify the importance of water on site, several design moves will improve access to these varied expressions of water, as they connect to the greater network of trails and the region.
The historical land use, current infrastructure and resources, surrounding markets and ecology of the land have informed the farm program of the master plan - the BioBlitz providing the guiding framework for the practices while inspiring a larger responsive network of managed ecosystems. The design utilizes the symbiosis of a diversity of species to generate farm products that are nutritive and delicious. Just as none of these components exist alone in isolation, each farming enterprise was likewise defined in relationship to other elements. In this way each part creates a greater, more dynamic whole and the farm landscape becomes a working, cycling, thriving whole organism. The master plan preserves the cultural integrity of Overlook while enhancing its inherent aesthetic beauty and fertility creating a farm that is economically viable, educational, and innovative in the process. The master plan articulates this vision with diagrams and maps to be discussed and revised to unlock the appropriate flow of nutrient cycling, animal rotations, and the efficiency of material, acting as the ‘living document’ that it was envisioned.
The Landscape Architect created a set of guidelines based on this comprehensive management strategy with the goal of protecting and enhancing the specific areas of conservation significance. The implementation of this strategy will amplify both the ecosystem services and agricultural production as it looks for opportunities for synergy between the two. From this foundation, the vision of Overlook Farm as an ecologically functional and agriculturally productive landscape has emerged - the fundamental characteristics of the farming program crafted at Overlook is designed to align with and enhance conservation objectives.
The master plan considered the client’s existing relationship with the University of Oregon Overlook Field School hosted on the site as the Center for Productive Landscapes. The center seeks to connect visiting students and faculty with the community and issues of land steward-ship and productivity (agriculture, timber and energy production) within the discourse of land-scape architecture. During the master planning process the design team had the opportunity to engage with students and faculty which produced exchanges of ideas and methods. The result-ant document promotes this campus structure for continued scholarship within this cultural landscape.
The final master plan guides the Client and managers to preserve the property's rich eco-systems, to celebrate its cultural heritage and to establish sustainable agricultural production.
Thomas L. Woltz, FASLA
Zachary Wolf - Agriculture Consultant
State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry
Roosevelt Wild Station