August 17, 2021
Blogger Larry Quarrick
The Big Decision: Retire or Rewire?
Hi everyone! I am Larry Quarrick, a registered landscape architect in Maryland. I retired 5 years ago from my full-time career as the Chief of the Park Planning & Development Division for the Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Although I do find time to relax, pursue hobbies (such as hiking, gardening and enjoying time with my grandchildren) I still am a firm advocate of “lifelong learning”. After retiring, I realized that I could either retire in the traditional sense- or make the decision to “rewire”. Rewire, in my mind, is going forward in retirement with a new purpose in life – how could I help effect positive change with regard to climate problems, help improve the lives of others and “give back” to my community?
My rewiring effort went forward with a personal commitment to stay active in environmentally sensitive landscape design. With that in mind, I participated in the 2016 Great Urban Parks Campaign sponsored by the National Recreation & Parks Association. This campaign focused on providing grant funding for green infrastructure in parks primarily located in underserved communities. I didn’t realize it at the time but this effort helped me realize the importance of Environmental Justice and eventually embrace the volunteer effort to develop a concept plan for the Ashburton-Edmondson Community Lot Park in West Baltimore. I am so excited to share the concept design for the proposed Ashburton-Edmondson Community Lot Park with all of you! But let me describe the path that led me to being involved with this project.
As I got further into my retirement, I also wanted to focus my landscape architectural design efforts on helping to preserve the Chesapeake Bay watershed and the bay. In 2019, I participated in both Level 1 and 2 Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional training and became a certified Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional. In January of this year, I was honored to be appointed to the CCLC board which has given me an opportunity to advance the effort to protect, conserve and restore the Chesapeake watershed. I have also been applying the principles of Conservation Landscaping in my private design practice that focuses on residential design and have incorporated this design philosophy when I review new development projects proposed in Howard County, Maryland via my role as a Design Advisory Panel member.
My passion for conservation landscaping continues to blossom and I have embraced the 8 Conservation Landscape Design Principles in my private design practice. In addition, via a term contract with RIVUS, LLC (a local water resource management firm) I assisted the City of Baltimore Department of Public Works with the effort to implement their MS4 Watershed Implementation Plan. This included projects such as stream restoration, invasive species management, installation of infiltration basins, impervious surface removal and native tree planting. While working with the city, I became friends with a civil engineer, and project manager for many of the City’s storm water best management projects (BMPs). He told me about a West Baltimore community that wanted to develop a small pocket park on a narrow vacant lot. My introduction to this community’s need for a park came about as I completed my 5th year of retirement. That is why I look at this experience as a “5-year Journey to Ashburton-Edmondson Community Lot Park”! As you can see, although my full-time working career has ended, I have rewired; keeping myself feeling very busy! Now, more on the project:
Ashburton-Edmondson Community Lot Park is located at the intersection of Ashburton Street and Edmondson Avenue in the West Baltimore section of the City of Baltimore, MD
Character of Neighborhood
This section of Baltimore is predominantly African American with low to middle income levels. The residential area is stable and there is renewed interest in remodeling/restoring the rowhouses on Ashburton and neighboring streets. Small businesses are scattered throughout the neighborhood on nearby North Franklintown Road, Edmondson Avenue and Baltimore National Pike (Rte. 40). Helen Mackall Park (Baltimore Department of Recreation & Parks) is located within walking distance of the neighborhood and offers open space, playground, and seating areas.
Community activists were concerned about the conditions of a vacant lot located at the intersection of Ashburton and Edmondson. Through contact with a friend who has been involved in the restoration of a rowhouse on Ashburton Street, I offered to provide “pro bono” design services for the development of a small pocket park that would serve community youth, adults and seniors living in the immediate area. A rowhouse had been demolished and the remaining 15 ft. by 80 ft area was maintained as an open grassy area by the neighborhood. Since there are no recreational amenities on the vacant lot, the residents use of the parcel was limited to small neighborhood gatherings, events to recognize special accomplishments of local residents and for summertime movies (projecting movies on the side façade of neighboring building).
I recognized that community input was needed to ensure that the proposed park met the needs of the residents; therefore, I met with several representatives of the Ashburton-Edmondson community in March of this year to discuss their priorities. They clearly indicated that the park should have amenities for all age groups. The following design elements were requested:
- Paved gathering area for residents to safely set up chairs to view outdoor movies
- Small stage area for neighborhood ceremonies (e.g., celebrating graduates of the local middle & high school)
- Pavilion to provide shaded area to serve food & drinks for neighborhood gatherings
- Sidewalk games for children
- Seating area
- Raised planters to serve as a community garden area particularly for seniors
- Shade trees & flowers
- Suggestions for a large wall mural
- Storage shed
- Low maintenance design elements
I approached the design from an environmental justice perspective. Many areas of West Baltimore are lacking in high quality recreational amenities. The neighborhood resource coordinator is coordinating the public art project (wall mural). With her assistance the concept plan for the Ashburton-Edmondson Community Lot Park proposes a large wall mural on the façade of the existing rowhouse to have an environmental justice theme. Building on that theme, many of the amenities proposed for the park will incorporate stormwater best management practices and/or environmental design. Based on the environmental theme and the agreed-to design program, the park incorporates the following design elements:
- Activity Zones – The linear park (15 ft width by 80 ft length) provides 4 distinct activity zones designated by decorative ribbons of masonry pavers that extend out from the 4 small projections of the existing building’ façade. These zones include:
- Pavilion Area – includes 8’ x 8’ pavilion, storage shed & outdoor chalkboard for children
- Stage/Movie Viewing Area – includes an outdoor stage & paved area for chairs for movie events
- Community Gardening Area – includes raised planting beds for vegetables & flowers
- Seating/Game Area – includes shade sails, bench & game table
- Environmental Design Features
- Permeable pavement – Grasscrete pavers
- Native flowering trees
- Recyclable materials for bench & game table
- Areas for vegetable gardens
- Wall mural with environmental justice theme
- Future curb bump-out for bioretention garden area to handle stormwater runoff INSERT PHOTO 5 – Proposed Storm water Bio-retention Curb Bump-out
- Recreational Design Features
- Corn-hole game area
- Trike/bike track for tots (includes sidewalk art of a pond with fish and lily pads)
- Sidewalk games (painted on adjacent city sidewalk) to include hopscotch, twister, & maze
- Outdoor chalkboard
- Game table
- Outdoor stage (for children’s performances & area to recognize residents for special accomplishments)
- Special Design Features
- Large decorative planters for flowers
- Colorful shade sails
- Decorative wrought iron fencing to secure garden area & seating/game table area during non-daylight hours (includes wide gates that are welcoming & remain open during the day)
With the assistance of other concerned and dedicated residents, a grant application for $50,000 was submitted for an AARP Community Challenge grant ( AARP Challenge Grant). This AARP program provides small grants to fund “quick-action” projects that can help communities become more livable for people of all ages. Currently, the community is waiting to hear if their grant application was approved. Although this grant will provide substantial funding for the project, the community is trying to raise additional funding via donations from local businesses.
My Journey Continues
The design services I provided for the west Baltimore community to develop a concept plan for their Community Lot Park was really a labor of love. I am hoping the needed funding will be available through their AARP Community Challenge grant application. I would like nothing more than to see the concept become a reality and to see residents ranging from tots to seniors enjoying the park. In the meantime, I will continue my journey and look for other opportunities to “give back”. If you are facing retirement in the near future, I highly recommend the concept of “Retire and Rewire”. If you are just starting a career or even if you are still years away from retirement, I hope you will also look for opportunities to “give back” within the communities you live. I am confident this path will give you a feeling of satisfaction and happiness as you continue your life’s journey and affect positive change in the world!
Registered Landscape Architect, Maryland
Larry is a registered landscape architect and certified Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the Pennsylvania State University and a Graduate degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Virginia.
After a 31-year career with the Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission (“M-NCPPC) in Prince George’s County, Maryland, he retired in 2016. While at M-NCPPC, he served as the Chief of Park Planning & Development and was involved with hundreds of design projects including playgrounds, neighborhood parks, community centers, regional parks, environmental conservation areas and historical preservation projects. Many of his projects involved green infrastructure and buildings that were LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certified. Currently, Larry is serving as a Chesapeake Conservation Landscape Council Board Member and operates a landscape architectural design firm known as Quarrick Design Consultants that focuses on environmental design and conservation landscaping.