Demonstration rain garden at CLEAR facilities at the UConn Middlesex County Extension Center in Haddam, CT.

The Connecticut Olmsted Award

The Connecticut Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects presented its 2016 Connecticut Olmsted Award to The Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR) at the University of Connecticut. A collaboration of the Department of Extension, the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, and the Connecticut Sea Grant program, CLEAR was established in 2002 to provide information and assistance to land use decision makers and other audiences in support of better land use decisions, healthier natural resources, and more resilient communities. Since its inception, the CLEAR team has developed a broad portfolio of programs and projects in support of this mission.

CLEAR’s Water Team specializes in stormwater management and green infrastructure, running the “NEMO” education program, a national award-winning program targeted at local land use officials. CLEAR also leads a team of University departments and the Town of Mansfield on efforts to incorporate green infrastructure practices into the campus landscape. These projects have led to transformation of the campus and subsequent recognition of the University as a leader in low-impact development and a “destination” location for stormwater experts.

CLEAR’s Geospatial Team has trained more than 2,000 people in the past decade on various aspects of digital mapping technology and also develops geospatial tools and applications for users of varying expertise. CLEAR's "story maps” (an interactive online technology that combines photos, videos, charts and graphics) have won national competitions. The Center also maintains and operates Connecticut Conditions Online, or “CT ECO,” a partnership with the CT DEEP, that is the state’s online repository of natural resource-related maps; over 25,000 individuals use this resource in a year.

The Center’s remote sensing project, charting changes to Connecticut’s landscape, is now comprised of seven dates covering 30 years (1985-2015), coverage which is unprecedented nationally. This data is used by a wide variety of institutions and organizations, including state agencies, federal/state management efforts like the Long Island Sound Study, town governments, nonprofits, and academia.

Another well-received tool is the Rain Garden smart phone application — the first “app” of any kind created at UConn. The application teaches people how to design, plan, build, and maintain a “rain garden” to manage stormwater runoff, and has now been adapted to cover 20 states, with more in the works.

CLEAR's Land Use and Climate Resilience Team engages community leaders and citizens on issues critical to our environmental, fiscal, and cultural well-being. The Land Use Academy, a partnership with the Connecticut Bar Association and Connecticut Chapter of the American Planning Association, has trained over 1,500 local decision-makers in the past five years on the basic responsibilities of their volunteer community service.

Formed more recently, the Climate Adaptation Academy is providing information and a forum for discussion for community leaders, researchers, engineers, homeowners, and others on a wide range of topics related to adaptation. CLEAR faculty also lead the new UConn Climate Corps, a collaboration of CLEAR and the UConn Environmental Science, Environmental Studies, and Environmental Engineering programs. The Corps will educate high-achieving undergraduates in these three majors, and then involve them in service-learning projects working with town officials on vulnerability assessments, public presentations, and other adaptation-related tasks.

CLEAR is built upon the community service ethos of the Land Grant university system. In their integration of applied research, tool development, and extension education, CLEAR faculty strive to make information truly accessible and usable for decision makers, to the benefit of Connecticut’s communities, citizens, and the landscape.

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The Connecticut Olmsted Award is given annually by CTASLA to a person or organization who works or resides in Connecticut and has employed the principle of stewardship of the land as the guiding force in their actions. The award was presented in December at the chapter’s annual meeting in New Haven.

Past recipients of the Connecticut Olmsted Award include:

2015     Chris Donnelly, Urban Forestry Coordinator for the State of Connecticut

2014     Terry Backer, State Representative and Soundkeeper

2013     William DeMaio, Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of New Britian

2011      Mary Donohue, CT Dept. of Economic and Community Development

2010      Steve Broderick, Goodwin Forest Conservation Education Center

2009      James Gustave Speth, Dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

2008      Peter L. Malkin - Merritt Parkway Conservancy 

2007      State Senator Andrew Roraback

2006      David Leff, Connecticut DEP/Author

2005      State Senator Bill Finch

2004      Green Valley Institute

2003      Town of Simsbury, CT

2002      Lieutenant Governor M. Jodi Rell and Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin B. Sullivan

2001      No Award

2000      Jim Gibbons - Land Use Educator, University of Connecticut

1999      Jack Shannahan and the Connecticut Historical Commission

1998      Joshua's Tract Conservation and Historic Trust

1997      Senator Joseph I. Lieberman - United States Congress

1996      Land Preservation and Enhancement Program - Iroquois Gas Pipeline Company

1995      William Niering, Ph.D. - Connecticut College

1994      Joseph Hickey - Connecticut DEP, State Parks

1993      Philip Barske, Ph.D. - Applied Ecologist

1992      Richard Goodwin, Ph.D. - Connecticut College