Retaining Wall.

People Matter: Beth Poovey

I believe a person’s past forms who they are.

Beth Poovey’s years of wanderlust became the journey that led to her role as Director of Greenways, Parks and Open Space for LandDesign. Recently, Beth shared her passion for parks as places with other park and recreation professionals as a speaker at the National Recreation and Park Association annual conference in New Orleans.

Passion matters.

“I believe a person’s past forms who they are.” It can also help someone discover their passion.

Beth grew up in a small town, yearning to experience a big city lifestyle and the diverse mix of people that came with it. She found it at George Mason University and in nearby Georgetown. However, her studies were cut short when she left school to care for her terminally ill mother.

Afterwards, not ready to return to college, Beth moved to the Netherlands to be a nanny and learned to love gardens and bikes. “I realized I had been born in the wrong country! I was supposed to grow up biking to bakeries and buying fresh flowers on the street. But all good things must come to an end, and I had to go back to school.”

It was the best setting for me to combine my love of community with learning about the planning and design of space.

It was at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, where Beth learned she liked process and people. “I changed my earlier studies in economics to psychology, and took the required sociology class. That was it for me.” Studying sociology uncovered Beth’s desire to understand the nuances that make a community unique. “I would study people in public places, watching and interviewing them to learn how they experienced these open spaces.”

After graduation, Beth moved to Toronto to study landscape architecture, captivated by the city’s internationally diverse neighborhoods, urban fabric and natural ravines and waterfronts. “It was the best setting for me to combine my love of community with learning about the planning and design of space.”

Getting dirt under your nails matters.

Beth’s first job was a park gardener for the City of Toronto’s Parks and Recreation Department. “One of my all-time favorite gigs! It helped me appreciate the demands placed on park and recreation staff to maintain these public places, which is very important to understand when you are designing them.”

Open public spaces matter.

In 1999, Beth joined LandDesign. Today, she is the firm’s Director of Greenways, Parks and Open Space, where she leads a studio focused on the creation of public places that matter.

I love them all.

Combining her sociology and landscape architecture degrees, her passion has evolved into the planning and design of urban open spaces that authentically integrate community assets with environmental stewardship opportunities. She is also responsible for producing construction documents for urban streetscapes, greenways and park facilities.

When asked to pick a favorite project, she responds like all good mothers. “I love them all.” However, there is one in particular that has spanned nearly her entire career at LandDesign, involving numerous clients and contracts: Little Sugar Creek Greenway and its extension, the Cross Charlotte Trail.

In 2000, the Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation Department hired LandDesign to master plan the development of a linear greenway along an environmentally degraded creek corridor that spanned 16 miles from uptown Charlotte south to the South Carolina border. The plan included opportunities for stream restoration, recreation and place-making all at once, providing an amenity for the community that also has become an economic development tool.

“This has been an awesome legacy project to work on in terms of the planning, design and implementation.” Fast forward 17 years and many related projects later, and the City of Charlotte’s transportation department has joined with Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation to provide public funding to accelerate the development of additional stretches of the greenway to the north, understanding the economic value it brings to the community.

For her presentation to the National Recreation and Park Association, Beth was joined by HR&A Advisors to explore how the park and recreation community can secure public funding for open park spaces by partnering with other departments, such as economic development or transportation. Using Little Sugar Creek Greenway and the Cross Charlotte Trail as a case study to frame the discussion, they explained the importance of viewing linear parks and greenways in their own communities through the lens of different departments and then leveraging these projects to produce partnership funding to get them built and implemented.

On Nov. 15, Beth will host a mobile workshop on the greenway and trail system with the National League of Cities City Summit in Charlotte. The tour will combine recreation and transportation to show city leaders how public-private investment in projects like the Little Sugar Creek Greenway and the Cross Charlotte Trail spur new development and sustainable growth.