In May 2014, six LSU Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture students traveled to Washington, D.C., to participate in the American Society of Landscape Architects National Advocacy Day. Members of the LSU student chapter of ASLA, the students visited the offices of Louisiana representatives and senators to discuss current transportation legislation.
Each year, ASLA members sojourn to Washington to advocate for policy issues important to the landscape architecture profession. During their congressional visit, landscape architects strive to raise the visibility of the profession with legislators and key staff and to enlighten government officials on the many ways that landscape architects provide solutions to a myriad of problems facing the nation. Important topics include storm-water management, small business growth, community development, professional licensure, and transportation planning and design.
Students who attend National Advocacy Day bring their own stories to legislators, from community outreach initiatives and past studio projects to future career paths. This year, transportation was the topic that most interested the six LSU students. Why transportation? According to a survey recently released by ASLA, alternative transportation projects, such as Complete Streets, rank among the top concerns among landscape architecture professionals.
“As a student, it was empowering to see the relevance of recent projects when advocating policy issues that affect our profession and Louisiana residents,” said Maria Muñoz, third-year undergraduate student at RRSLA.
National Advocacy Day was not the first time LSU’s student chapter of ASLA has been involved with alternative transportation outside of the studio. Last year, ASLA students worked with CPEX and Better Blocks Baton Rouge on a community engagement project. Their temporary “green street” installation included new designs for a bike lane, street plantings, and business facades along Government Street in Mid City Baton Rouge.
Government Street is now on its way to more permanent improvements that may include transforming the current four-lane infrastructure into three lanes (two lanes and a turning lane), allowing room for additional bike lanes. The plan is intended to transform Government Street from the Interstate 10 corridor to Lobdell Avenue.
“The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development will improve and turn over Government Street to East Baton Rouge Parish by the end of 2015. Consultants have been hired to do the design work, which will incorporate public input into the design. While this has been in the process for years, the Better Block BR project helped bolster public support. The Better Block BR streetscape demonstration project also showed that if the road is developed with all users in mind, Government Street could not only move traffic efficiently, but also bring economic development and improve the quality of life of the residents in Mid City,” said Haley Blakeman, AICP, PLA, ASLA, director of implementation for the Center for Planning Excellence.
The student chapter of ASLA acts as a liaison between students and practicing professionals in order to provide valuable, lifelong contacts with other students, schools, and professionals locally and nationwide. Benefits include access to valuable literature, networking and job-finding opportunities, community service opportunities, and additional career preparation. SC/ASLA is the official student body organization recognized by the American Society of Landscape Architects, the professional organization representing landscape architects nationally and internationally, and its local chapter, the Louisiana Chapter of ASLA.
Visit asla.org for more information about ASLA Advocacy Day.