Favorite Places

This is the post excerpt.


September 29th, 2017

Describe a place that is stress free. Immediately, I envision open space with rolling water and beautiful views. I create an escape destination where I can visit and be surrounded by aesthetically pleasing landmarks, and a vibrant captivating sky. I imagine West Palm Beach!w4The beautiful colors of the sky at sun down, and the cotton ball white color of the clouds during day time really mesmerizes my mind. West Palm Beach is a great example of place-making, the idea of creating places that people want to be in. These public spaces promote health, happiness, and well-being.City Place West Palm BeachIn an article highlighting landscape architect James Corner entitled “How Can Cities Revitalize Their Public Spaces,” a key point was inviting the public to participate. At the beach, the nearby attractions, outdoor activities, and tropical palm trees provide many ways to interact with and learn from the environment. West Palm Beach successfully provides beauty, leisure, safety, and choices for its visitors.West PalmThe balance of alluring natural features with programmed built infrastructure presents an area where the environment and economics can thrive. Retail, eatery, and entertainment gives people the option to purchase memorable souvenirs, try new cuisine, and enjoy night life. West Palm Beach is a place with numerous users, and because of its attributes is arguably one of nature’s gems.

“Get lost in nature, and you’ll find yourself!”Aruba2To get lost in nature is one of the most worthwhile things to do. You can find peace and view nature for its never-ending cycle. Feelings of curiosity can emerge from the intense contemplation. You can discover things you never knew about yourself, and above all let your mind roam! When I think of a place that allows me to escape, Aruba strikes me as one of the perfect places for this. Whether it be the sounds of the water, the colors of the sky, the aroma of the vegetation, or the texture of the sands, there is something that grabs your attention and temporarily loses you in the process.Aruba 3.jpgIn an article entitled “Treasuring Places of Character,” author Justin Golbabai expounded on elements of great places that attracted him. He wrote about a commitment to history, which Aruba does well. Approximately fifteen years ago, countless flamingoes made the Renaissance Private Island their home. These flamingoes reside on the beach and interact with visitors, all while offering a pretty pastel pink view amidst the refreshing waters. While I understand that these beautiful creatures are a great sight to see, it may be disappointing to learn that you must purchase passes to visit Renaissance island and kids are not allowed on this private Island (to mitigate flamingo population disturbance). Depending on the individual, this could in fact be great news. Adult get-away! Aruba1The amazing thing about Aruba is some of the beautiful landscape can be experienced by all users, while others such as the private island can serve as “rooms” in the landscape where everyone does not have access. The mystery in that makes this place remarkable. The seemingly everlasting view of the water paired with staggered trees and pretty skies arguably makes Aruba one of nature’s gems.




October 13th, 2017 – Part 2

Introductory Place Video: https://vimeo.com/238158806

Imagine waking up early one morning and going on a run before starting your day. As you get into work-out clothes and running shoes, you get your music playlist ready and you’re off to start your morning jog. But wait…where do you go? What is a place that is suitable for running and can be easily accessed by the public? A trail!


I will be examining Paint Branch Trail, which is located in very close proximity to the University of Maryland, College Park. This trail stretches over 3.5 miles of land between Lake Artemesia and Cherry Hill Neighborhood Park, and has various access points. Paint Branch Trail is among one of plenty trails that intersect and create one great trail system, The Anacostia Tributary Trails, across nearby cities such as College Park, Greenbelt, and Riverdale. With many cities making up the trail system, planning and zoning proves to be a critical step in designing where things could be built. Planning is key to think about many aspects of what this trail system means for the community, both the advantages and disadvantages. With zoning comes permitted users, and in this case the general public is able to use this space. From the trail, there are many views including high-rise apartment buildings, a golf course, a creek, and an overview of University Boulevard East, and Lake Artemesia. While on the trail, one can expect many areas with trees along both sides of the trail, giving it a forest effect. As a result, animals such as deer and beavers can occasionally be seen in the area. While on the trail, an abandoned dog park and an open mowed lawn are among the physical features of the space, in addition to the aforementioned creek and lake. Currently, people use this space for biking and running primarily. Other uses include fishing, photography, yoga and bird watching.


I chose Paint Branch Trail because of the mystery to the area. The beauty lies deep in the trail system, and cannot be aesthetically apparent from the outskirts. To further explain this, from the access points, especially those that surround the University of Maryland, the trail appears dull and nearly gives off a sense of abandonment. From the access points alone, someone would wonder “Where does this take me?” or “Is there anyone else on the trail?”. Those pondering questions make this space unique because those are the very thoughts that can attract or deter visitors from this space. I feel the place is underutilized and by making all access points more inviting, more people will want to dive in and discover what the trail has to offer. I would argue that many students pass this space frequently as there are numerous access points across campus, however I do not think Paint Branch Trail has reached its full potential of users. The condition of the space is beautiful when you are closer to Lake Artemesia; access points that are closest to campus is where I see room for improvement as they are currently fair or in need of repair in some areas. My plan is to make these access points mirror the fascinating opportunity and ravishing landscape of the interior of Paint Branch Trail. I plan to entice people from the outside (access points) and wow them once they see all that the trail holds!


Paint Branch Trail is surrounded by many communities. Paint Branch Elementary School, University of Maryland, numerous residential areas including both row houses and student apartments, College Park fire station and College Park metro are among some of the communities that encompass the trails. According to Neighborhood Scout, over half of the population in College Park are ages 18-24 and white. Not far behind college-aged students is adults ages 35 to 64, and African-American when analyzing race. Both College Park and Greenbelt metro stations are among the transit options available, as well as local public busses and the University of Maryland shuttle. There are 57% single family homes and 35.1% of apartment complexes according to data retrieved by Neighborhood Scout. Using this same resource, I found that the top three industries in this area is education, professional/technical services, and accommodation. Lucky for University of Maryland students and staff, the area of College Park is commonly associated with this public flagship institution!


Paint Branch Trail holds some history that can be interpreted through the signs throughout the landscape. The first Mayor of African American ancestry in the city of College Park was Dervey Augusta Lomax. His vision for an urban renewal program for the Lakeland community had plenty of influence on the design of the Anacostia Tributary Trail System. Additionally, Paint Branch Trail was the site of Maryland’s first state tree nursery. Thousands of trees grown at this site were replanted in Maryland’s forests and along its road, which contributed to ecological restoration. Within the trail, there is a man-made lake and park near the creeks, which was created as a joint project between the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and The Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commissions (M-NCPPC). Originally, the lake was used to raise goldfish however, WMATA removed soils to grade train tracks and the Greenbelt parking lot, and replaced the area with artificial landscape that was funded by the savings accumulated from using on-site soil. According to the Prince George’s Post in 1972, the name of the lake comes from the “socially prominent” Mrs. Artemesia Cloud and her daughter Artemesia Drefus. Many of the relevant and interesting history can be found through interpretive signs that are throughout the trail system.


Although Paint Branch Trail is such an amazing place to visit, the densely wooded enclosure can make this area a prime place for crime. According to a Lake Artemesia article on RunDC, a very short section of the trail was a hazard for criminal activity in the 1990s. When considering information on the city provided by Neighborhood Scout, College Park has a crime index of 17. 100 is the safest, so College Park is without a doubt at an alarming level. Most of the crimes reported are property as opposed to violent, which suggest that there may be a lot of home burglaries. While on the site, I did notice some vandalism such as graffiti, but these were closer to access points. Once you get deep into all that the trail system has to offer, you will be immersed in its restorative and aesthetic features.


Just in the past couple of years, many apartment complexes such as Domain, The Hotel, and Landmark have been built. There is further construction along Baltimore Avenue to build more student housing, but this has been delayed due to an unfortunate series of fires. As far as plans for redevelopment, there is a proposed extension of the Paint Branch Trail under Interstate 495 north, which has entered the design phase. When complete, the Paint Branch Trail will create a continuous ten mile trail with amenities and landscape that will attract many users. Signs and advertisements in this public place suggest the community’s desire to create program, and give participants the platform to unite. These activities include bird watching, Saturday morning yoga, and a 5k run which are all advertised in the heart of the trail system adjacent to Lake Artemesia. Community leaders are illustrating principles of designing for people by allowing an underused area to serve a purpose. The yoga takes place in an open mowed lawn. Furthermore, they are considering activities, both necessary and social to include that will attract people. Lastly, both landscape architects and community leaders are introducing the idea of human scale by presenting things close to us. There is a difference between human, car, and building scale; and Paint Branch Trail effectively offers opportunities and experiences at the human scale!


Works Cited:





October 25th, 2017 – Part 3

Field Report

  1. I conducted my thirty-minute observation on Wednesday October 25th, 2017 from 5:10 until 5:45. My site is the Paint Branch Trail, and I specifically sat near one of the access points, about a mile in near an abandoned, low-use area.
  2. On Wednesday afternoon, it was fall like weather with the degrees at about 50. The wind was not too cold, and it was not humid or hot. I wore a light jacket and was comfortable during my observation period.
  3. At my site, I used four of my senses. The biggest one for me seemed to be hearing. Due to my choice of placement, there was very little people to see. I saw people in passing walking, jogging, or biking. This space was used as a channel for traffic, and people did not stay in the space. For this reason, many of my sensory was through what I heard. The sound associated with nature that I noticed most was birds chirping, squirrels bustling through the groundcover, and automobile traffic that could be heard in the distance. Another distinct sound that I recall is that of the nearby construction, but it was more of a background noise. There was an aroma that I can remember, and I would best describe it as a vegetative smell that was given off from the plants. One of the last things that I used was touch. This was the one that I used the least, but I did touch some of the climbing plants that grew near where I was sitting. These plants were glabrous to the eye, and felt very smooth. There were no thorns on these specific plants.
  4. During my observation period, I recorded a total of twenty-two people who all appeared to be students. I made this judgement based on the presence of bookbags and University of Maryland attire, in addition to the age that they appeared to be. All twenty-two of the people walked through the space, and did not stay in. Many of the people were walking alone, although I did notice two groups of two people, and one group with three persons. Other than those seven people, all others were walking by themselves. I noticed conversation between all three groups that I saw, and listening to music with headphones was a common observation for those individuals walking alone. I do remember about two people who were on the phone as they walked through the space. Of the twenty-two people, ten people were riding a bike, two people were running, and the remainder were walking. The two people who were running were together. Something that I found most interesting was the facial expressions and non-verbal communication of some of the users of this space. I believe many people were shocked, or slightly confused to see me sitting there with a notebook. There is no designated seating, and I used an existing retaining wall as my place to sit.
  5. There was little interaction in this space. When people were walking alone, they were to themselves and not talking unless they were on the phone. I did notice that the three groups I saw had little interaction. The two guys who were running were conversing as they exercised. They seemed to be in a good mood, and I were laughing a bit. The other group of two people were a guy and a girl, and they too interacted by conversing with one another as they walked. This group spoke to me, when they noticed me sitting and recording notes! Lastly, the group of three people walked together and were all, also, talking and walking.
  6. This space was designed to connect many cities together, and connect other trails to one another. Paint Branch Trail is a component of the overall Anacostia Tributary Trail System. The trail runs about 3.5 miles, and can be used as a place of exercise or escape for the public. In addition, Paint Branch Trail’s design is influenced by the late Dervey Augusta Lomax who had a vision for urban renewal. This space is currently being used to support its purpose. I see room for improvement in certain areas, but I do not think overall Paint Branch Trail failed its mission.
  7. The presence of a Lake Artemesia is among one of the things that can attract people to this trail system. Water is oftentimes restorative and aesthetic, and I believe it draws people into this space. Additionally, this space provides a way for users to get from one destination to another. Many students use the trail system to get from campus to home. Lastly, with this being a trail system, many people can use this area to exercise.
  8. I believe the space has great activities that take place, but they are not well publicized or promoted. The classes and leisure activities that happen in this site were not apparent, and it took me to choose this site as my focus for me to understand and be aware of what this place has to offer. In addition, there are some areas that appear abandoned, and I would like to repurpose these spaces and increase perceived safety. The area that I chose to sit was among one of my biggest key areas to focus on.


  1. At my site, there are two key changes that I am proposing to make. My first change is to enhance and beautify the access points on campus. Currently, they are not as visible as I know they can be. I want to make it so that people who are on campus will know that the trail exist and where they can enter from. One of the changes I would propose is ornamental plantings. I believe these colors, aromas, and textures will work together to attract more people to the site. I would consider adding small street trees such as crape myrtles to further enhance entrance points, and I will distinctively mark the entrances with signs and direction arrows. My second change would be to repurpose the abandoned area of Paint Branch Trail. I will do this by adding paintings and a mural. I believe color will make this place a prettier sight, and it will not seem out of place. A bland wall can be drastically changed if a mural is added. I would be interested in getting student input on the mural by making it community service painting, or competition within the interested student population. I like the idea of mixing many student’s ideas together to create one collaborative mural.

My improvements will be sustainable because it will use what is existing and give it a different use. Currently, there is a tall tunnel with unpleasant graffiti and blank wall that I would like to add color to. My proposed improvements do not call for a lot of expensive changes, and plantings would be a fairly low but worthwhile investment. The plants would attract pollinators, as well as people to these access points. I am positively impacting the social aspect by aiming to bring more users into the trail system. Economically, my proposed budget is realistic and affordable. By making the mural community service, I can incorporate the campus community in the nearby attraction, and by proposing the painting as community service, I save money from the bidding process and/or contractors. This will also build community and have people feel important by contributing their own ideas to a public space that is close and that they use. Environmentally, I am promoting pollination which is key to biodiversity and a healthy ecosystem. I am also improving the perceived safety by transforming a underused and unattractive space into something that looks appeasing.k2

Trail markers with interpretive signs will help to direct traffic.


Pollinator garden is beautiful and attracts people, and of course pollinators!


A collaborative mural will beautify the bland wall, and provide an opportunity for community building.

The Paint Branch Trail is walk able and bike able which promotes social interaction, key components to a livable city according to an article on Chattanooga. These principles will increase urban life, and possibly promote tourism. These are all good things for the site, as I do want to bring in a lot of people. Another topic, urban growth boundary, is very relevant to this site. This boundary indicates where building can occur and where it cannot. This is important for Paint Branch Trail because some areas need to be protected and preserved. By restricting development, we illustrate that some aspects of the land hold history and should not be altered.

Works Cited:





December 4th, 2017 – Part 5

Final Video: https://youtu.be/tDdNwcDYyL4

After studying Paint Branch Trail, I have come up with some great additions that should attract more users than ever before! My plan is to make this place more inviting and beautiful, and have more students want to leisurely visit the trail system. My first addition is to bring color to the access points. I am confident that a vibrant entrance will catch the attention of many people, and thus entice them to visit the space. How exactly do I plan to bring out colors?


I will grow some ornamental plantings at every marked access point of the trail. This will not only brighten up the space, but it will create connectivity by having a central feature that appears no matter how you enter the trail. Plants not only attract people, but pollinators as well so I am positively affecting the surrounding environments with my choice to welcome people with gardens. Further exploring my idea to bring out color, I am proposing to add murals to the site!


The presence of art outside presents an aesthetic view, but also promotes community and can foster a social environment. Whether it is a campus organization or individual students, people can do artwork together and foster a healthy and positive environment. There will be designated points along the trail to fulfill this creative side of people. In order to combat vandalism, there will be explicit guidelines posted near the permissible areas. I will also propose blue light camera posts to be posted in these areas, which will hopefully deter those from making poor decisions to vandalize the property. My intent is that the greater good of community will take over someone’s meaningless desire to destroy the murals.


Now that I have mentioned the Blue light posts, let me further explain why this is an intentional decision. In addition to creating a safe and secure space, I want to replicate some of the University’s practices because of the school and trail system’s close proximity. By including components from University of Maryland’s initiatives, I am connecting the two places while tending to the users’ sense of security. If someone ever feels in danger, he or she is able to call for help and alert the blue light to shine and release an emergency siren.

Interactive Sign

During my field report of Paint Branch Trail, I was engulfed in some history of the site, and would like to pay homage to some of the unforgotten pieces that are a part of its history. I am proposing to add interactive signs as a way to inform the public about things such as but not limited to pollinator gardens, positive effects of murals, and Paint Branch Trail history. By making the signs interactive, I am engaging the visitors and having them use more of their senses. I want to include sound and touch, in addition to sight when creating and placing my signs throughout the site.

Bike Ramp

Paint Branch Trail is a great place to get exercise, but through my field report, I recorded that I only saw people walking and jogging through the space. I believe the presence of a bike park will entice many college students—much of whom already ride their bikes to and from classes! The park would include ramps, and cool obstacles for bikers and even skateboarders to use. This addition supports the University of Maryland Master Plan’s goals which include having less cars on campus and promoting a cyclist friendly environment. This will be a great place to do cool tricks, and will offer something different than the typical walking and running.

Healing Garden

Lastly, but most certainly not least, I will be including a wooded healing garden. Considering the trail’s system context, I believe a healing garden is perfect for students to get restorative therapy. Students are stressed by the demanding obligations of school at times, and a place for them to go contemplate and reflect would be beneficial. This would be an outdoor greenroom, with enclosure by plenty of plants and trees thus making it very sustainable and environmentally friendly. I believe my six additions create a place that people want to visit, and I thought about concepts such as people want to see other people; and human scale when redesigning this location. I had positive reaction from my teaching assistant so my goal in part five was to continue make careful observations and decisions.


Approvals: For my project, some key stakeholders include Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation, President Loh, local mayor, and campus community. I believe that these four principles have major relevance to what I am proposing and can help me with moving forward. I plan on getting buy-in from these parties by indicating how my changes promote a more sustainable and community-oriented place. If I am able to communicate the selling points of my new place, and why these changes are necessary then I will effectively gain their support. I will need to show short and long-term benefits.

Funding: I would try to seek funding from the University of Maryland’s Sustainability Fund. In order to do this, I will need to apply and write a grant. In my proposal, I would emphasize how my changes will benefit the community and use sustainable practices, materials, and plants. I would consider researching the performance metrics of my changes, which shows numerically the sustainable changes that I am proposing to make.

Long-term Maintenance/Upkeep: One of my additions was the Blue light, which I believe will act as a deterrent to keep intentional damages from happening. As far as maintenance as it relates to the gardens and just overall condition of the place, I would explore two options. There could be one position that opens up over the summer, or throughout the semester as well that hires someone with gardening skills to upkeep the trail for two-three days out of the week. This option would require money because there may be associated costs for tools, and the worker would need to be paid an hourly wage. My second option would be to hire an intern, who is only doing maintenance for the experience; or offer it as community service to campus organizations. As someone who is involved in a few organizations on campus, I am aware that many students often search for community service projects to help out with.



Final Reflections

Transportation is one of the topics that I found most interesting of the things we discussed in class. I learned that transportation influences how a community operates. Places where the primary mode of transportation is automobiles cause less people to travel by foot. This reduces the pedestrian activity and does not encourage social interaction. I found road layout to be interesting because I never thought about how curves is correlated to speeding. In cities where there are right angles, cars must slow down to safely make the turn whereas suburbs have curved roads that are typically easier to navigate at higher speeds. Concepts from the transportation that relate to my public place is walkability. With my site being a trail, everything is already connected by existing paths. Some of the features that I included act as attractions that will entice people to walk to different parts due using connected grids that make everything cohesive. Additionally, this topic from class relates to the news story of the sixteen mile Purple Line that extends from Bethesda to New Carrollton. The line will cross University of Maryland’s campus, and will cause some changes to be made to Campus Drive as the road needs to widen to accommodate the train. A second topic was brownfield redevelopment, which was something that I never knew about. I understood brownfield redevelopment as an abandoned site that can be contaminated or posing an environmental threat. One of the things that I found interesting is the debate of who is responsible for clean-up. While the contamination component does not apply, brownfield redevelopment is related to my public place because it involves repurposing the area. I added different features to some places at Paint Branch Trail to take away from the sense of abandonment. Lastly, we talked about the planner’s role in urban planning. The megaregion, in particular, discusses the economy and the environment at the scale of whole regions where multiple metros link together and not at the scale of communities/cities. This means the planner must think at a broader scale, and consider the context of a place and what grand things are nearby. As this relates to the site, planners of my sustainable place will need to consider how Paint Branch Trail relates to Lake Artemesia, University of Maryland, and even College Park Metro. This could influence things that they include, and things that they avoid. Understanding the proximity to a school and to a metro station suggests the potential for a high volume of students, and public transit users.

In a previous part of the project, I discussed human scale. This is a design trick that I still find very interesting. It is amazing how when things are at eye level, the design becomes more intimate and more relatable to us as people. Studying human scale made me pay more attention when I was outside, and I noticed that things were designed to be walkable and usable by people. My work with the sustainable project further influenced my understanding of human scale. There are parts of the trail with tall trees, and little under story. My design decisions to add a bike park, reduces the size of the small and present features that individuals can relate to as far as size is concerned.

I believe the most effective thing that I can do to ensure that everyone has the right to live in a sustainable community is to enforce fair housing with strict law and guidelines. By making sure that everyone has the same chance to live in the same housing communities, officials can be sure that not just some people are privy to these perks. I believe fair housing is the root of the problem and if solved, not as many people will be disadvantaged by poor communities that tend to result in poor education. Granting fair housing can improve economic issues by making more affordable, mixed use communities that lower and upper middle classes can benefit from. Currently, there are issues with poverty and homelessness, and fair housing can mitigate these problems. Stricter fair housing rules can improve social interaction as well. Mixing people by income and status can promote community, and allow those who are different to coexist. Lastly, fair housing guidelines that require sustainable features in their community will complement the idea of a healthy environment. By having more dense communities that include a broader range of people, we can preserve and repurpose land for community uses. Fair housing benefits all aspects of sustainability, and I believe a mandate that enforces it for all could be a step forward in the right direction. I may face challenges from those who like things separated, and want to keep things as they are. I could address this issue similar to eminent domain problems, where if the solution benefits the greater good of the public, then this will be enforced. If this is too harsh or too unrealistic, I can look into higher taxes for those living in high-end neighborhoods. This may persuade them to welcome more sustainable living.

Works Cited



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