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American Society of Landscape Architects


December 2006 Issue


The Ecology of Privilege
In Teton County, Wyoming, a spectacular residential landscape sets aside significant “public open space” for the owner’s sole benefit.

By Adam Regn Arvidson, ASLA

The Ecology of Privilege Courtesy David Swift

Suppose a developer sets aside 400 of 710 developable acres, restores native trout streams, re-creates habitat for migrating birds, and establishes a nature and raptor recovery center with a full-time naturalist—then disallows public access. Is this public-spirited conservation?

Now, suppose this development is in a part of the country already endowed with public land—an astounding 4.4 square miles of it for every man, woman, and child in the area. Does it still matter whether those 400 acres are open to the public or not?

The place is Teton County, Wyoming, where 97 percent of the land area is public, a playground about four times the size of Rhode Island comprising Yellowstone and Teton National Parks, the National Elk Refuge, and Bridger–Teton and Targhee National Forests.

The project is 3 Creek Ranch, an upscale development just south of well-heeled Jackson with stunning views of the jagged Teton Range. There are 136 market-rate units here, from 1/2-acre cabin lots (strategically placed to ensure the big-dollar views) to 35-acre ranchettes in restored riparian areas. Resale values for the cabin lots, including “cabins” of between 3,500 and 5,500 square feet, are around $1 million, while the ranchettes go for between $6 and $9 million.

3 Creek provides context for a smaller but complementary project, the Livingood residence, about 10 miles away. Both projects are by Verdone Landscape Architecture (VLA). Both address the complex hydrology of the intermontane West. And both set aside a significant amount of open space that is, quite strictly, closed to the public.

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