Saratoga Associates Intern and SUNY ESF Student, Caroline Horgan, Presents at the Hudson River Watershed Alliance Annual Conference

December 6, 2019

Every landscape has a visual dimension: Who would want to spend time in a space that doesn’t, to some extent, “look good?”  The practice of landscape design in fact loops back to Nineteenth-Century goals to bridge poetry—or, the qualitative, compelling parts of a space— and painting.  Saratoga Associates know the importance of that midway; our team members account for visual resources in every project— just ask Principal Matt Allen.  That said, we are excited to share our latest efforts to balance the vistas wanted with the ecosystems needed.

For several months, SA has been working on the Hudson River Estuary Scenic Views Guidance, Training, and Demonstration Project.  Our goal is to provide stakeholders with best management practices for establishing and maintaining scenic views without disrupting healthy forests.  Specifically, we are pushing for methods of tree pruning and clearing— essentially opening “windows” onto the landscape— that do not hinder processes like forest succession and hydrology.

The project’s latest milestone is thanks to our student intern, Caroline Horgan who has been researching and visualizing different methods of forest clearing and had the chance to present her work back in October.  Ms. Horgan attended the Hudson River Watershed Alliance’s Annual Conference.  This year’s theme was the nature and appearance of “Healthy Landscapes,” and how to communicate their importance to stakeholders.  Ms. Horgan’s research will soon be distributed in a guidebook, but her presentation was a fascinating taste of things to come.  Here were some of the highlights:

Once you’re set on the views you want, it’s easy to want to clear-cut that space alone, creating an immediate transition from forest to viewing space.  Best Practices, however, include feathering, the careful thinning of foliage for a more “natural visual transition from undisturbed… to…cleared” viewing points.  This practice also creates room for forest expansion.  Check out Ms. Horgan’s graphic below:

Before you get to work feathering, narrow down where you want your eyes to go, and test out multiple vantage points: The position of the observer in a landscape can make or break a view.  The three primary positions are (1) Observer Inferior (2) Observer Normal and (3) Observer Superior.

All best practices will be tested and modeled in real-time at four sites along the Hudson—Stay tuned!

SA also extends its thanks to project partners New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC); the New York State Department of Environment Conservation (NYDEC) and the Hudson River Estuary Program (HREP); and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF).