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ASLA Hosts Annual Advocacy Summit in St. Louis

ASLA conducted the Thirteenth Annual Advocacy Summit on August 9-10 in St. Louis, Missouri. The annual event brought together 39 advocates from 32 chapters to discuss how to build and improve their chapter advocacy efforts. This year's themes provided summiteers an opportunity to absorb information and strategies to foster strong, proactive, and engaging advocacy programs.

The event kicked off with the debut of the new Guide to Hosting Tours with Elected Officials--a "step-by-step" advocacy tool to help chapters facilitate site tours with policy makers. During the session, advocates learned the important role landscape architects play in engaging elected officials on public policies vital to the profession. Site tours are effective opportunities to educate local, state, and federal policy makers on how landscape architects use design to create well-planned spaces within communities. Summiteers discussed the chapters' role as essential stakeholders in promoting the Society's advocacy priorities, and how landscape architects are well-qualified to provide elected officials with an overview of the profession's contributions to their communities.

To demonstrate how site tours are planned, the St. Louis chapter used the Guide to organize a site tour of Citygarden--an urban park and sculpture garden in downtown St. Louis. Chapter president, Tim Slazinik, ASLA invited and led local, state, and federal policy makers through Citygarden--showcasing design approaches and ingenuity of the urban oasis from a landscape architecture perspective. Summiteers witnessed how site tours provide unique opportunities for policy makers to see how local landscape architects use site design, grading, drainage, and horticulture to create community gems. The Citygarden tour energized advocates to take the experience home, and to engage their elected officials.

Transportation policy was another focus at this year's Summit. Attendees had a robust discussion on strategies for building relationships with state departments of transportation (DOT). Oftentimes, state DOT officials are not familiar with the scope and role of landscape architecture in transportation projects. Developing better relationships with DOT officials can break down barriers to practice and build familiarity with the profession. Engaging such officials can also foster these relationships, especially since many programs, initiatives, and projects related to landscape architecture are run and administered by state DOTs.

On the federal side, summiteers received a comprehensive overview of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act reauthorization legislation. MAP-21 provides substantial funding for the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP). TAP includes such active transportation projects as bicycle and pedestrian projects, streetscape improvements, recreational trails, safe routes to school, and more. In recent months, various federal legislators made attempts to eliminate TAP-prompting the ASLA to spring into action and utilize the iAdvocate Network to engage landscape architects across the country to successfully protect TAP. Another hot topic discussion focused on best practices chapters can use to cultivate relationships with licensure boards. This session showcased the important role chapters play to building strong, working relationships with licensure boards. Additional sessions featured an overview of ASLA advocacy web tools, and a preview on how chapters can plan a virtual Advocacy Day.

If you or your chapter were not able to attend this year's Advocacy Summit, or you want to help make a difference in your state, visit ASLA's Advocacy page for toolkits and resource guides to help you carry out an effective chapter advocacy program. Also, be sure to check out the St. Louis chapter' Advocacy Summit photo gallery and the Indiana Chapter's Advocacy Summit Twitter action for a visual and social media recap of this year's event.

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St. Louis chapter president Tim Slazinik, ASLA, conducts a site tour of Citygarden with policymakers and summiteers.

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2014 Advocacy Summit attendees

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