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The Importance of Being at the Table

A member shares the value of his volunteer activities beyond the Society.

For the profession of landscape architecture to be heard on far-reaching, industry-related issues, it must be represented in groups that address those issues in meaningful ways. The American Society of Landscape Architects encourages its members to not only serve on ASLA national boards, committees, and task forces and to take on leadership roles at local, state, and regional levels, but also to be leaders outside the Society.

Many ASLA members are leaders of other professional societies, groups, and organizations, and they are positive ambassadors for the profession of landscape architecture and its work. They enable other professional groups to gain a better insight as to the role of landscape architects and how they are crucial in many areas, including land reclamation, water resources, land stewardship, and sustainability, which in turn helps raise awareness of the profession and the need for it.

For example, Scott C. Scarfone, ASLA, principal and founder of Oasis Design Group, a landscape architecture, master planning, and urban design firm in Baltimore, serves as a board member for several groups, and as a board member he works side by side with professionals outside the landscape architecture profession.

“The collaboration with people across various professional sectors gives everyone a chance to understand and learn from each other, and it is a win-win situation,” Scarfone says. He is a board member of Trout Unlimited, Maryland Chapter; Monocacy Scenic River Citizens Advisory, Frederick and Carroll Counties in Maryland; and Center for Watershed Protection, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Ellicott City, Maryland.

Scarfone became involved in the Center for Watershed Protection because he is an avid fly fisherman and interested in preserving cold-water fisheries. The Center for Watershed Protection had been a national leader for more than 20 years in the field of stormwater management and conducts research and provides technical assistance, guidance, and training to local governments, watershed organizations, and others working to protect and restore watersheds.

“Landscape architects’ ability to balance the engineering- and science-based needs of site planning and design with the ecological and aesthetic components puts them in a unique position to be able to influence a project’s outcome,” Scarfone says. “My board appointment at the Center for Watershed Protection gives me a chance to inform engineering-based professions—which are important audiences of the center—on what landscape architects can do to help.”

The center’s mission is to protect, restore, and enhance streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands, and bays by creating viable solutions and partnerships for responsible land and water management. “The center’s mission directly relates to landscape architecture, especially with new, more stringent state acts regarding land use and stormwater management,” Scarfone says.

By being a board member of the Center for Watershed Protection, Scarfone has strived to have the voice of landscape architecture be heard. “I am working with the center’s other board members and its target audiences to broaden their perspectives on the issues and to not only inform them on what we do as landscape architects but how we work and how we can be a resource to their initiatives,” Scarfone says. “Increasingly, landscape architects are being called upon to integrate engineering practices into landscape designs, giving aesthetic appeal to engineering-based site features like bioswales, micro-bioretention basins, and others.

“The board appointment has given me the opportunity to deepen my own understanding of watershed issues and the science and engineering of stormwater management as well as learn how to effectively apply those various management techniques in my design work,” he adds. “The center’s aim, in part, is to raise the bar across all professional sectors to ensure the protection of our waterways—landscape architects and the center can work together to make that happen.”

If landscape architects want to serve as leaders for professional organizations and groups outside ASLA, then Scarfone has two recommendations. First, people need to follow their passion with regard to their own personal and professional interests and ideologies and align themselves with organizations that have a mission to support those ideas. Second, they need to be willing to proactively speak their mind in a manner that both demonstrates a broad-based perspective of the profession of landscape architecture and shows leadership conviction. When these items are in place, “people will listen and people will follow,” Scarfone says.

To learn more about the Center for Watershed protection and get seated “at the table,” contact Scarfone at or by telephone at 410-732-1910, or Executive Director of the Center for Watershed Protection Hye Yeong Kwon at or by telephone at 410-461-8323.

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