landscape Architect

Providence, RI

Blog post by Jonathan Ford, P.E., Sr. Engineer
Nathan Kelly, AICP, Principal

“Landscape architecture is not just one thing in particular, it’s a little bit of everything. You need to be thinking about people, nature, art, creativity, and design.”

Ellen’s been working with our team for about a year now and we’ve been sharing office space in  Providence since day 1—now we are working from home in adjacent Providence neighborhoods.  We’ve collaborated on a  range of design projects, and we are struck by her remarkable versatility, the inquisitive nature of her approach to her work, and her creative talents as a designer.

Her contributions have included conceptual design at various scales of community building and landscape architecture, illustrations for regulatory documents, detailed site grading, and drainage design, and more. Over the course of the year, Ellen has been able to transition effortlessly between projects focused on landscape design, civil engineering, and regulatory reform. We appreciate her ability to effectively (and cheerfully!) communicate with colleagues and clients.

With all this versatility, Ellen’s training and passion lie in the field of landscape architecture. Her passion for the work doesn’t stem from just one aspect, but the mix of elements that go into designing special places. As she explains, “Landscape architecture is not just one thing, in particular, it’s a little bit of everything. You need to be thinking about people, nature, art, creativity, and design.” This eyes-wide-open inquisitive approach to landscape design has proven valuable and equips Ellen with the background and information needed to produce effective and unique design results.

One of Ellen’s talents that made us particularly excited to bring her on board is her talent in visual arts. Ellen is an accomplished illustrator and artist, with drawings that range from traditional landscapes to fantastic creatures to complex statements about our relationship with nature. Her creativity and ability to communicate through drawing quickly and confidently, layered with the more analytical component of landscape architecture, gives her work its own signature.

Another important source of inspiration for Ellen is her connection with nature and wild places. Having hiked the entirety of the Appalachian Trail, Ellen is no stranger to the outdoors and feels these sorts of experiences are incredibly important to our lives. Her work reflects a respect for natural processes and the idea that, in the work of landscape architecture, no space is truly designed outside of nature.

Like many of us at HW, Ellen likes the diversity of work we take on and is attracted to “interesting challenges.” In Chattanooga, where we partnered with Dover Kohl to create a master plan for a 112-acre brownfield site on the banks of the Tennessee River, Ellen helped design parks and open spaces for the new neighborhoods. She also assisted with adding stormwater management best practices and helped to create a system of urban eco-canals. The project is advancing towards construction and will be a showpiece for innovative infrastructure design within a new vibrant, artistic neighborhood. Closer to home, Ellen’s been helping to design urban trails, pocket parks, and kayak launch for the Woonasquatucket Greenway in Providence. True to form, her work blends an analytical and creative approach to provide a practical yet engaging design. Moving forward, Ellen brings so much to the evolution of our landscape architecture practice here at HW. As we continue to explore ecological opportunities in our design work, we look forward to her creative contributions!


Read Ellen’s RIASLA blog post – “More Meadows” Post RIASLA

 

 

A rain garden guide for homeowners

By: Michelle West, P.E.

Michelle is a senior water resources engineer with more than 18 years of professional experience. With a background in both engineering and natural resources, she is passionate about using her skills to restore the natural world while improving the human experience.

Before we get started,  a few questions.

  • Have you joined the rain garden craze yet? 
  • Have you been inspired by an article, your neighbor’s rain garden, or our Rain Garden Wednesdays social media posts?
  • Want to do your part to improve your local water quality and wildlife habitat?

It’s easier than you think!

The two illustrations above, right show how “breaking the impervious chain” slows, cleans and reduces the stormwater leaving a site.

The bottom photo shows Michelle leading a rain garden workshop at Walton’s Cove in Hingham, MA.

What is a Rain Garden?

Rain gardens are actually very simple.  They are just shallow depressions – too shallow to even call a hole! – with plants.  But, rain gardens are not just isolated depressions placed randomly out in a yard.  They are specifically sized and placed to absorb stormwater runoff, the water that flows from your built impervious surfaces such as rooftops, driveways, roads, parking lots, and even compacted lawn areas when it rains.  And that’s it!  Well, not quite, since rain gardens do take a bit of planning and physical labor, which we will get to in a bit.

 

 

   Why a Rain Garden?

What’s so bad about stormwater runoff?  Why all the fuss?  It’s just rainwater straight from the sky – isn’t that natural? 

Unfortunately, no.  All of those impervious surfaces that we built for our shelter and transportation prevent the clean rainwater from soaking into the ground like it did before we developed the land.  Dirt, fertilizer, soaps, oils, metals, and even animal poop build upon these hard surfaces and get carried away with the stormwater.  In addition to creating water pollution, when your runoff joins up with your neighborhood’s runoff, it can cause flooding and erosion, damage infrastructure, degrade aquatic ecosystems, and close shellfishing areas and beaches.  While runoff from just your home or business may not cause much of a problem, the cumulative impact from everyone’s home and business really does.

Rain gardens are one beautiful way to break the impervious chainof roof to downspout to driveway to road to stream, pond, or bay.  They use soils and plants to filter pollutants and help water soak in rather than runoff.  Please remember that rain gardens are NOT ponds or wetlands – they should drain in less than 24 hours after a rainfall. 

Download the file below to create one at your house!

 

Cross-section of a typical rain garden:

 

Click to Download: How to Build a Rain Garden

 

  

Staff scientist

Sandwich, MA

Sarah started her career after graduation from Saint Anselm College working for the State of New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services conducting inspections, collecting samples, and database management. Earlier this year, she helped to facilitate a few emergency preparedness events across the country.  Sarah loves her work, Cape Cod beaches, and her bulldog, Gator.

 

“My mentor at HW, Gemma Kite, made me feel like a part of the team, day 1”

   Sarah is working for one of our largest clients, the U.S. EPA. The EPA works with private consultants like us to train water utilities on many subjects, most notably emergency preparedness training. This is perhaps one of the most complicated services to talk about here at Horsley Witten Group (acronyms abound!). Everyone understands we provide engineering, design, planning, and science services, but environmental consulting or training is a bit difficult to explain. We are hoping this conversation with Sarah helps clarify this important sector of our business.

 

“… after looking through the website and social media, [HW] sounded like a place I would love to work. It didn’t hurt that the main office was located on Cape Cod, which was a place I had always wanted to live…”

HW:  Sarah, you must like to travel as earlier this year you made a trip out west to California and Utah before that. Tell us what you did.

Sarah: I had the unique opportunity to travel with Tom Noble, Associate Principal to both Santa Rosa and Vacaville, California which is about an hour north of San Francisco to help facilitate an EPA-sponsored, 2-day workshop for the water sector on public safety power shutoffs, (PSPS) events.

 

HW: That sounds like a great destination. What was the training like?

Sarah:  It was a wonderful trip. Yes, I was able to go across the Golden Gate Bridge and drive through some amazing areas like “wine country.” The workshops were important as California suffers from wildfires that can sometimes be inadvertently caused by sparking power lines. Therefore, when the conditions are right in California for a wildfire to start (e.g., dry, high winds), electric utilities will proactively shut down sections of their power grid. This inevitably affects the water and wastewater utilities who need to continue operating by switching over to alternate power, like generators. For this process to go smoothly, water utilities need to have standard operating procedures (SOPs) in place for preparing and responding to PSPS events as soon as they are notified by the electric utility that one is coming. It was our job to assist EPA in helping water utilities share lessons learned and best practices from past training events so that SOPs can be developed to help all water utilities, especially those who have not been affected by a PSPS yet.

 

HW:  This sounds especially important Sarah. What do the utility staff members take away from the training exercises?

Sarah: The participants learned about the importance of coordinating and communicating with electric utilities and building relationships. The workshop also allowed them time to listen to presentations from other water utilities and electric companies about their experiences with PSPS events. They also got the opportunity to brainstorm what should be included in an SOP for PSPS events. Specifically, from these workshops, we are compiling the best practices gathered from the exercise participants and will be turning them into SOP templates that we will send back to the water utilities for their review and use. Another important component of these events was the opportunity for participants to network with one another and exchange contact information.

 

HW:  What was your role in the training?

Sarah: I acted as a scribe during presentations and supported the small group breakout sessions by serving as a facilitator and by taking notes and recording participant comments. When I got back to the office in Massachusetts, I summarized the presentations. I also took all the notes from the participants and compiled them into one document. We are currently in the process of organizing this document and turning it into a template PSPS SOP that utilities can then customize for their unique circumstances. As more and more PSPS events occur, the utilities will have an opportunity to learn and reflect and of course take more training, share their experiences, and update their plans and SOPs accordingly.

 

HW: Did you receive feedback and if so, anything you can share with us?

“The format of the meeting was excellent. The speakers had relevant and informative presentations. The facilitators were great. Participation was really greatly appreciated.”  

 

HW:  What did you take away from this experience and what do you look forward to doing in the future?

Sarah: I enjoyed working with Tom very much. He is a confident and knowledgeable presenter. I also learned a lot from the presentations and was proud to be part of the training team. I hope to refine my skills and learn more as the years go by so I can lead training and see more of the country as I love to travel! I never thought I would have this unique opportunity and I am so glad I found HW and can work to advance my career in this ever-changing and exciting area of emergency preparedness training!

 

HW:  Thanks for sharing your experience, Sarah. By the way, how did you hear of HW? Happy one-year work anniversary!

Sarah: I went to a Nonpoint Source Pollution Conference in Portsmouth, NH in April of 2019 (a year ago, wow!) and saw a presentation given by Geoff Glover and Brian Laverriere on the living shoreline project HW completed in Kingston, MA. I was really interested in the project, so I decided to research more about what HW does and some of the other projects they had completed. After looking through the website and social media, it sounded like a place I would love to work. It didn’t hurt that the main office was located on Cape Cod, which was a place I had always wanted to live. So, I reached out to Geoff and Brian about the potential of working for HW someday, and shortly after a “staff scientist” position was posted. And here I am!

We are glad you are here Sarah! Thanks for the interview!

Learn more about our emergency preparedness training services.

 

Staff Planner

Interviewed by Krista Moravec, AICP, Senior Planner

As I write this, HW staff has started week 6 working remotely due to COVID-19.  We are a close group, and not being able to see our friends every day is challenging. However, HW’ers always rally, and we are still being social while social distancing. We are strongly encouraged to connect with each other outside of work-related emails. Inspired by this, and missing my colleagues, I thought I would reach out to a fellow HW planner and allow you to get to know her better. Last year we hired Fabiola Alikpokou as a Staff Planner. She works on most, if not all, of my projects. So, over the past year, we’ve gotten to know each other well.

When Fabiola took the position, she moved her family from Omaha to Providence. After a year, I was curious about what the Alikopkou’s thought of New England, and in particular, Little Rhody. She and I got together (virtually) over a cup of tea to discuss.

 

“We love Narragansett Beach and the Blue Hills Reservation for hiking. It’s amazing. But we try to visit random beaches. We really love the water, obviously. We didn’t have that in Nebraska, so any chance that we can get to go, we go.”

Krista: Thank you so much for letting me interview you! First question, we are all wondering why you even considered applying for a job in Rhode Island? Granted, we love our tiny state, but still…

Fabiola: Anthony [Fabiola’s husband] and I were ready to leave Nebraska. We talked about leaving for a long time and this was our opportunity. Rhode Island was not on our radar at all. When I applied at Horsley Witten, I didn’t really think anything of it. I met the qualifications, and I applied.

 

Krista: What made you decide, yes, I want to live in Rhode Island and work for HW?

Fabiola: I went through the first interview on the phone with Nate Kelly (Principal Planner). It was pretty straight forward. It wasn’t until the second interview with you and Nate on Webex that I thought, I want this job! You guys seemed down to earth, but the biggest thing was the work/home life balance. It was important to me to work at a firm or agency that was flexible and realized how important family time is. I remember Nate talking about his morning routine and he said sometimes he gets in after 9 am because he has to take his kids to school. That’s me! Having that kind of flexibility really impressed me. Especially moving to a whole new area. I researched Rhode Island. I listened to the Crime Town podcast. I went on Google Maps and took a virtual tour. We were, like, ok we can do this! And then I got the offer. I called my mom and said, “Guess what! We’re going to Rhode Island!” She said, “What’s that?” [Laughing]

 

Krista: Explain puppy chow and when you realized that Rhode Islanders had no idea what it was.

Fabiola: Puppy chow is a Chex mix with melted milk chocolate and peanut butter, covered with powdered sugar. It is the best thing ever! I was craving it one day. I went to the bakery section at Stop and Shop and asked the lady if they had any puppy chow. At first, she was confused. I said you know that treat with Chex mix? She said no, but maybe you can find it in the dog aisle. I laughed, but she didn’t laugh with me! She was serious. That’s when I texted you and asked if people here knew what puppy chow was.

 

Krista: [Laughing] I had no clue what you were talking about. I think I texted the same response the lady in the bakery gave you, go to the dog aisle. Do they sell it in the supermarket in Nebraska?

Fabiola: They sell it at gas stations and grocery stores. It is a treat that you can grab anywhere in Nebraska. I was really confused! [Laughing]

 

Krista: Like puppy chow, what was something you heard here that you had no idea what it was?

Fabiola: I still don’t know what milk coffee is.

 

Krista: Coffee milk! It’s coffee-flavored milk. Like chocolate milk, but instead of adding chocolate syrup to milk, it’s coffee syrup. It’s really good*, like an iced coffee.

Fabiola: [Pause] Ok I’ll try it. *[I’m not sure she’s convinced…]

 

Krista: What places have you visited? Which is/are your favorite(s)?

Fabiola: We love Narragansett Beach and the Blue Hills Reservation for hiking. It’s amazing! But we try to visit random beaches. We really love the water, obviously. We didn’t have that in Nebraska, so any chance that we can get, we go.

 

Krista: What is on your bucket list to visit this summer?

Fabiola: Hiking in the White Mountains and Acadia National Park in Maine. Anthony and Olivia [Fabiola’s daughter] missed summer in Rhode Island, so we’re basically going to be at the beach every day.

 

Krista: That is a great plan! Ok, a few professional questions… what planning issues in New England are different from Nebraska?

Fabiola: Climate change is discussed in Nebraska, but not in the forefront as it is here. And transportation. Planners in Nebraska are just starting to think about transit-oriented development. Nebraska is a huge state and it doesn’t have a cohesive public transportation system that can connect you to different parts of the state. The current planning leaders are sticking to the status quo, but the younger, emerging planners are the ones who are talking about public transportation more frequently. Nebraska is a very car-oriented state, so it’s hard to have that conversation. When I was an intern at MAPA [Metropolitan Area Planning Agency in Omaha], they were at the forefront and worked to show the need for a better public transportation system in the area. MAPA organized summits to talk about why we need a robust public transportation system in our state. They were making a lot of progress when I left for Rhode Island. Nebraska is starting the rapid bus transit system and a lot of folks are excited about it!

 

Krista: Of the projects we’ve been working on, which has been your favorite? Why?

Fabiola: I like open space and recreation plans (OSRP). When I started my planning career, I was not into environmental or recreational issues. I wanted to talk about social justice, housing, disparities in access to resources. But I didn’t know much about environmental justice. Working on OSRP plans shows me how everything is connected and important, including having access to recreation, open space, and natural resources and the benefits received from them.

 

“…As an APA ambassador, I will spread the word about the field, helping to educate young folks about the planning profession and also communities of color…”

Krista: The HW planners are incredibly involved in the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Planning Association, and we brought you along with us. You are working on establishing an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Committee. Can you explain the purpose of the EDI Committee and what you hope to achieve in its first year?

Fabiola: The EDI Committee will share resources and come up with ideas and activities for the chapter around equity, diversity, and inclusion in the profession. Our first event was going to be a roundtable event to discuss the book Color of Law. With the current circumstances, we’ve put that on hold, but I still hope to do it as soon as we can. Looking ahead, the committee will focus on ways we can help improve the planning field by diversifying it and sharing resources. EDI is a working committee and we have a lot to figure out, I’m simply happy we got the ball rolling because it is a ball that should have been rolling quite a bit ago.

 

Krista: I’m really excited about this, too. You are also an APA Ambassador for the RI Chapter.

Fabiola: I am! As an ambassador, I spread the word about the field, helping to educate young folks about the planning profession and communities of color. This will not only increase diversity in the field but will encourage people, particularly communities of color, to come to public meetings and get involved in the planning process where they live. 

 

Krista: More exciting work to do! Thank you so much for bringing your perspective to HW and to our work. And thank you for letting me interview you. It was fun!

 

 

 

Ben Wollman

Environmental Scientist

Ben Wollman has joined our Sandwich office as an Environmental Scientist focused on wetlands and ecology. Ben earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Natural and Environmental Systems from Cornell University and is a Certified Ecological Restoration Practitioner. He comes to HW with 12+ years of professional experience working in professional consulting, design, and research and ecological restoration oversight. He has worked in PA, NY, and most recently MA. Ben will be working with our ecologists and other technical staff to support our wetlands-wildlife assessments and permitting projects.

Ben loves to spend time outside, enjoying activities like hiking, kayaking, birding, swimming, camping, snowboarding, hunting, and fishing. A naturalist by nature, and inspired by environmental icons like Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, and E.O. Wilson, Ben is passionate about maintaining and facilitating healthy individual and societal connections to the ecosystems that sustain us all. Ben and his wife have been living on the Cape since 2015 with their incredibly cute and smart pup (Rowan – he’s 14 years old and going strong)! Welcome, Ben!

 

HW Planners Support Documentation and Essential Utility Functions During a Pandemic

The Horsley Witten team of experienced emergency preparedness planners are actively supporting COVID-19 response remotely in our nation’s capital by working with the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water) Incident Management Team. 

DC Water distributes drinking water and collects and treats wastewater for more than 672,000 residents and 17.8 million annual visitors (during a normal year) in the District of Columbia.  DC Water also provides wholesale wastewater treatment services for 1.6 million people in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland, and Fairfax and Loudoun counties in Virginia.  As critical infrastructure and a key resource, DC Water continues to operate 24/7 providing drinking water and wastewater services to residents and businesses as well as federal agencies in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area. 

HW’s emergency preparedness staff are well versed in both the National Incident Management and Incident Command Systems and participate remotely in daily COVID-19 planning and operations meetings held by DC Water’s Office of Emergency Management. The planners assist the Authority’s Incident Management Team pandemic response through the development of comprehensive Incident Action Plans (IAP). 

The IAP is a tool used to manage DC Water’s common operating picture during this pandemic and to keep workers safe while executing their mission and essential functions.  HW has worked closely with DC Water for many years and is proud to help during this unprecedented time in our country. 
Stay safe, stay well, stay home.

 

HW’s Carbon Footprint & Offsets

Mark Nelson, P.G., Principal

Mark has led water resource protection projects for the last 35 years with clients across the country focusing on protecting drinking water supplies, freshwater lakes and ponds, and coastal estuaries.  He has also helped clean up numerous sites contaminated with hazardous materials and led training workshops for local officials on protecting their water resources.  Mark is currently leading our efforts to calculate, minimize and offset the firm’s carbon footprint.


The Horsley Witten Group has decided to become carbon neutral!  We would like to share the process we are using to calculate our carbon footprint, the steps we’ve taken to reduce our impact, and the options we are considering for offsetting what we can’t prevent.  We would like to hear from you and welcome your ideas to help us refine this evaluation over time.  Have you tried this for your home or business?  Do you have suggestions for what works well?

In our 32 years, HW has developed and supported a variety of environmental programs and goals. This work began with dozens of states and local communities by mapping where their drinking water came from and then developing regulations and plans to protect these water supplies.  We have also supported open space purchases, retrofits for numerous stormwater outfalls, planning to improve coastal estuaries, assessments, and cleanups of contaminated sites, and work with local communities on comprehensive plans. 

Recently, we were certified by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to help communities plan for climate impacts through the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program.  To date, we have helped nine communities plan and adapt to climate change and are currently working with many of them to implement the action items developed in the planning process. Our MVP planning work has helped our client communities leverage over $1.5 million in MVP grants. 

Our environmental work, though positive, has a measurable impact on our climate. This is true even though we purchase the majority of our electricity (for power, heat, and AC) from renewable sources.  As an example, in 2019 our staff traveled over 300,000 miles by plane, and about the same distance in our cars to work on projects across the U.S.  We’ve decided to quantify this footprint and look for ways to offset it, hopefully through local opportunities.

You can check out the initial calculation of our carbon footprint above.  It is based on 2019 data and shows the firm released approximately 250 tons of carbon to the atmosphere over the last year. This is roughly the equivalent of 4-5 typical households.  Over the next few months, we’ll share how we developed these calculations, discuss our work to reduce our footprint, and evaluate the options we are considering to offset our carbon pollution. 

There are many calculators available to quantify a carbon footprint and many ways to offset one’s emissions.  We look forward to a productive discussion on how we can do this as we work together with staff and other organizations towards a cooler and safer planet for our generation and those generations that follow.   You may contact Mark directly at mnelson@horsleywitten.com.

Click here for an informative video by Mark. This is the first in a series of blog posts and videos about HW’s carbon footprint reductions.  We look forward to sharing what we are learning and doing!

 

steve stanish, p.e., CFM, ENV SP

Project Engineer

Steve Stanish has joined our Boston office as a project engineer with a background in both the public and private sectors. Steve received his Master of Science Degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Illinois -Chicago and his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Purdue University. He joins HW with 11+ years of experience specializing in stormwater management design and is a certified engineer in several states, a certified flood plain manager, and an Envision Sustainability Professional in MA. He also has experience in transportation engineering and design.

In his spare time, he is currently renovating his home which he has described as HGTV outtakes! Steve also is an avid ultimate frisbee player, homebrewer, and woodworker. When not traveling for frisbee tournaments on the weekends, he is typically in Boston working on brewing new beers or building furniture for his home.

 

Lori Kennedy, p.e., ENV SP

Senior Project Manager

Lori Kennedy is a water resource engineer and project manager with a diverse background in municipal engineering, policy, stormwater management, integrated planning, modeling, and community engagement.  We are pleased to welcome her to our growing Boston office!  Lori earned her Master’s Degree in Environmental Engineering from the University of California at Davis, and her Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Environmental Engineering from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, MA. Among other roles, Lori will be supporting our MS4 clients in meeting all aspects of their MS4 permit requirements. Lori grew up in Vermont and enjoys hiking, gardening, and exploring nature with her two children.

 

janelle veary

Designer

Janelle Veary has joined our Sandwich team as a Designer focused on site design and stormwater management. Janelle earned a Master’s Degree in Environmental Science and Technology from RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Behavioral Neuroscience from Northeastern University.  She comes to us with two years of professional experience as an Integrated Water Engineer in Australia. Janelle will be supporting our project managers with CAD operations and a range of civil engineering and environmental assessments including site design and drainage. Janelle enjoys spending time camping, hiking, and cooking. Welcome to HW Janelle!