1. So Staci, tell us about yourself.
I’m a lover of the land, and am an ardent learner and traveler. I have a formal studies in earth sciences, education, architecture, landscape architecture and horticulture. I have amazing memories from growing up in different areas of the United States; playing in creeks in Virginia, swimming in the California oceans, spending summers with my grandparents finding fossils and picking blackberries in Northern Arizona. These experiences and memories propel my work as a designer, educator and mom. I’m also very balanced in both my capacity for creative and pragmatic thinking. I’m inspired by natural and constructed spaces. I believe that people can harness incredible depths of well-being by accessing the powers of place and nature.
2. You have your own business, Insitu Design | Landscapes + Gardens. Tell us about it!
I create outdoor spaces for beauty, well-being, and play for residential and educational settings. Insitu means ”in place” and my purpose is to create outdoor spaces where people feel in place and at home. I design and manage small to large scale projects, as well as consult and design planting plans and palettes. While I have an ecological design approach, I also realize that everyone has a different style and way of making themselves feel at ease outdoors. A project is successful when a space reflects the users’ aesthetics and values. Not only do I really enjoy getting to know my clients in this way, but this approach encourages people to get outside. It’s a long-term, big picture perspective – if a family can easily extend their living space outdoors, there is a good chance that I’ve helped foster more well-being in their family dynamics, and encouraged a little more potential to appreciate and care for the natural environment.
3. How did you get involved with the Conservancy?
In 1995, I wrote a college thesis for an environmental science seminar about the rapid rate of land development in Lancaster County. I remember visiting Lancaster County as a young child, moving to the area in the late 80’s, and then returning during college breaks. It was really shocking to see what I perceived as unrestrained and thoughtless development. The Lancaster County Conservancy was an organization that really helped me understand the complexity of those issues and solutions. I later worked as a researcher for watershed restoration projects on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, and then as an investigator for a saltmarsh pollution project at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts. On both of these projects, I got to know organizations (much like the Conservancy) that were putting research into every day practice. I appreciated these people and their inspired action, making the daily grind of lab and fieldwork worth it. Later, when I was a science and math teacher at The Janus School, I was involved in the Hourglass Foundation and the Lancaster County Conservancy was a partner in our county tours. Now, I appreciate that my kids have access to lovely natural areas, thanks to the Conservancy’s efforts.
4.You’re a generous donor to us, thank you! Why is it important to you to support the work of the Conservancy?
As a landscape designer, nature inspires my work. Without access to natural environments, my creativity, intuition, and inspiration are limited. As a scientist, I understand the role of biodiversity on a large and small scale – and that is a really important value to me. Lastly, as an educator at heart, by supporting the Conservancy, I am advocating the mission of preservation and education of Lancaster County’s natural environment, putting my money back into the ethics of stewardship.
5.And, you make several gifts each year in honor of your clients. What made you decide to structure your philanthropy that way?
I am incredibly grateful to my clients who support work that I love and help me realize my intention to make the world more beautiful. By honoring the Conservancy, I am honoring the root of our client-designer relationship, which is the connection between people and nature. I also hope that clients who are not aware of the good work of the Lancaster County Conservancy learn about your mission and vision.
6.If money were no object, what would you like to see the Conservancy accomplish in the next five years?
Of course, I would love to see more undeveloped land preserved. I would also really love to see a large scale community movement to transform areas of what I consider bad development, whether they are residential neighborhoods or commercial shopping areas, to models of well integrated natural and developed spaces. If such a change were to occur, I would like the Conservancy to assist with funding the maintenance of such areas. Can you imagine if an area like the Park City parking lot was redeveloped with an objective to be aesthetically attractive, manage storm water on site, highlight native trees and habitat, and draw people to a real “park-like” setting? I’d also love to see the Conservancy be a partner with municipalities to return vacated developed areas, largely commercial and public space, to naturalized areas. It would also be incredible if every school had a piece of its property co-managed by the Conservancy, not only to display native flora and fauna, but to promote the link between nature and cognitive advantage. I’m a bit of a visionary and understand that execution would take longer than 5 years, but the Conservancy’s next strategic plan could incorporate a paradigm of innovative land transformation as well as preservation.
7.Finally, do you have any fun facts or useful tips about the natural world you’ve learned through your work that the average gardener might not know?
Wow- that’s a good question. I take play seriously, and I think the natural world is a stage for all creatures’ playfulness. I incorporate whimsical, playful, and engaging elements in casual and formal spaces for all age users. I once read that a human being can neurologically not play and be anxious at the same time. I think that’s pretty powerful in these anxious and fearful times. So, my tip is to use the garden as a place to cultivate a playful state of mind!