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Quarterly News - 2014 Issue 4

Project Spotlight - Santa Fe Metropolitan Pedestrian Master Plan

MPO Area Map

MPO Area Map

By Alexandria (Leider) Krzmarzick, MLA, Assoc. ASLA

Client: Santa Fe Metropolitan Planning Organization

Design Team: design office / AOS Architects

  • Claudia Meyer Horn, principal
  • Alexandria (Leider) Krzmarzick, project manager
  • Patrick Sinnott
  • Tom Pederson, GIS specialist

Location: Santa Fe Metropolitan Planning Area

  • Area: 426.6 sq mi
  • Population: 116,386 (2013)


The Santa Fe Metropolitan Planning Organization contracted with Design Office to prepare the first Santa Fe Metropolitan Pedestrian Master Plan for the Santa Fe area. The Pedestrian Master Plan is one of three documents that will inform the update of the 2015-2040 Santa Fe MPO Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP). The MTP, updated every five years, is a plan that provides an approach to transportation planning to include multiple modes of travel: walking, biking, transit, and driving. In order to advance the Santa Fe MPO’s goal of creating a robust multi-modal transportation system, of utmost importance is to continue to consider the needs of pedestrians and cyclists in all projects and to instill a balanced, multi-modal approach to transportation planning throughout the City and County organizations.

Walking as a form of transportation is enjoyable, energizing, environmentally friendly, and free. It has been a prevalent form of transportation throughout history. However, in the last fifty years the quality of the pedestrian environment in many cities has declined. Walking from one place to another has become challenging as pedestrians must navigate wide roadways, speeding vehicles, and travel longer distances. This plan defines a “pedestrian” as a person moving from place to place on foot and/or with the use of an assistive mobility device, such as a wheel chair or guide dog.

Within recent years, the United States has seen a growing trend in walking as a form of transportation. Millennial populations elect to live without cars and move closer to where they work in neighborhoods with walkable destinations. As alternative modes of transportation become more commonplace within our communities, it is important to use best practices to improve pedestrian facilities and safety.

Walkable environments and pedestrian facilities are a critical part of a well-functioning transportation system. Every traveler is a pedestrian at some point during their trip, if only when traveling to and from motorized vehicles. The extent to which travelers depend on pedestrian facilities varies—some travelers drive most of the time, others use public transportation, and still others cannot or choose not to drive, and therefore depend more heavily on the pedestrian system. Regardless of the needs of individual travelers, all users of the transportation system benefit from a safe, well-connected, and well-maintained pedestrian network.

The Santa Fe Metropolitan Pedestrian Master Plan envisions the Santa Fe Metropolitan Planning Area as a community that invites people of all ages and abilities to walk for enjoyment, exercise, and daily transportation by providing a safe, convenient, and attractive pedestrian environment. To achieve the master plan goals, the project team has completed a GIS analysis of existing conditions, walkability, and demand within the Planning Area, gathered public input through open house public meetings and surveys, compiled and rated potential project locations (to be ranked), identified policy recommendations, and developed a pedestrian toolbox. In addition, the project team has developed methods for public pedestrian improvement reporting and future identification and evaluation of projects.

Planning Area residents identified safety and connectivity as the most important pedestrian issues. To increase connectivity developers should be required to install sidewalks at the time of development, no exceptions. Property owner sidewalk maintenance should be enforced or a sidewalk repair fund should be created for the City or County to make needed repairs. Pedestrian paths should be created to connect cul-de-sacs and neighborhoods to allow pedestrians easier access to adjacent destinations. Pedestrian infrastructure should be equally considered in roadway redesign and safety audits.   

The project team has found that some of the most hazardous elements to pedestrian safety can be improved using a variety of tools: implementing continental markings instead of parallel markings at crosswalks to improve visibility for drivers; adding safety beacons to mid-block crossings on high volume roadways; properly lighting pedestrian crossings to increase nighttime visibility for drivers; lowering posted speed limits to speeds with a higher pedestrian survival rate in the case of a pedestrian / vehicle collision; and using Speed Feedback Signs and In-Road Pedestrian Yield Law Signs make drivers alert to speeding and pedestrian right-of-way.


The project team is now working on the final draft of the Pedestrian Master Plan. If you would like to view the completed document look for it at in early 2015. 

Check out this great dancing ped video:





We'd love to highlight one of your projects in an upcoming newsletter!  Contact us to share your work.

christian pic.JPG

new member Spotlight - Meet Christian Pedersen, assoc. asla

I was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona in the desert of the Southwest.  What many call "water harvesting", I would have called "yard work" while growing up.  Before my university studies, I lived in Lake Tahoe for about eight years and traveled the world snowboard racing.  My time working in the outdoors and in the trades enhanced my appreciation for nature and the built environment.  I earned my BA studying Geography and Art at the University of Arizona.  After some time away from my studies, I enrolled in the Landscape Architecture Master’s Program at the U of A and began the creative process of becoming a Landscape Designer.  I see Landscape Design as a way of unifying nature with the built environment through Universal Design, in particular Sensory Design.  As a spatial and visual thinker, I enjoy most the freehand aspects of the design process.  Finally, my influences are Olmsted, Halprin, and the Golden Mean. When not working I am raising my beautiful little daughter, enjoying quiet time with my wife, and relishing in my time on the mountain snowboarding.  

landscape structures factory tour recap

by Jitka Dekojova, Assoc. ASLA

Don’t get discouraged by the idea of spending a weekend in the heat, humidity, and haze of a Midwestern summer. Yes there are mosquitoes, but there is also fresh walleye, deep fried cheese curds, and fishing.

The group at the Super Scoop / Periscope Station.

The group at the Super Scoop / Periscope Station.

 The Landscape Structures factory tour follows the process of creating play equipment from birth at the designer desk, through pipe bending (who would guess pipe bending could be such a fascinating, unexpectedly entertaining thing to watch?), welding, color coating, and shipment. What I really appreciated was that the tour was given by individual employees, who shared their expertise from each part of the assembly process in which they worked, in educational, insightful, and fun way. We learned how to create concrete horses, eagles, hippos, and squirrels hiding in dens. We were fooled by the exquisite transformation of concrete into other materials –wood, animal flesh, and, well…concrete itself. We saw how to mold plastic into elaborate shapes, signs, and features. But giggle swages and conn females aside, we enjoyed every minute of it, and then toured a couple parks featuring installed play equipment. 

What happens when you release a bunch of landscape architects and related professionals into a playground? They stage zip line races, they swing and swirl, they investigate all-inclusive play equipment, they poke through wood chips, they climb towers, and they inspect shade structures. But most of all, they have fun (and score some continuing education credits on the way).

At the factory.

At the factory.

 Tours like this give tremendous insight into the intricate process and heart that is involved in bringing the products we, designers, specify onto the job site for people to enjoy. I was really impressed by the standards and care we witnessed at Landscape Structures and recommend signing up for the tour.

Nate Tierney explores the Barb King Playground in Delano, MN.

Nate Tierney explores the Barb King Playground in Delano, MN.

 The tour to the Landscape Structures factory in Delano, Minnesota is offered every summer by Exerplay. Contact Dan Garnier or Greg Neal at 505-281-0151 if you would like to sign up. 

Demon Trees?

by Craig Campbell, FASLA

There has recently been some publicity regarding the removal of non-native vegetation, primarily Siberian elms, along the Santa Fe River.  There are three naturalized trees – Russian Olive (Eleagnus angustifolia), Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila), and Tamarisk/Salt-cedar (Tamarix species) that have recently become “demonized” by many public officials, to the point of banning their sale by nurseries.  Siberian elm is often incorrectly called “Chinese elm” which is a different species. I have a soft spot for ANY tree – regardless of origins – that is able to survive and reproduce in our climate and soils with no interference or watering by humans.  These trees deserve some respect if for no other reason than their enviable toughness.  While I understand and respect the position taken by many public officials and others concerned about ‘invasive’ species, and recognize the very real problem these trees can pose in riparian and some other areas, a more careful examination of the value of these trees – both fact and fiction - is warranted. 

Ulmus pumila

Ulmus pumila

There are many opinions about precisely what constitutes “native species” of plants. Some writers take the position that there is no supportable scientific basis for determining what a “native species” is as opposed to an “invading species.”  At what point in time does one determine that a species is “native” or non-native? In addition to human caused plant introductions, it has been documented that there are numerous methods of seed dispersal by bird and animals that can allow a species to spread even from continent to continent.  Animal and plant species have continually adjusted their range, dependent upon predators, climate shifts, and other factors. Some people think tumbleweeds (Russian Thistle) are natives of the west – but just like dandelions and hundreds of other “weeds” they came in from Europe and Asia and have become ‘naturalized’ in the same way the ‘demon trees’ have become naturalized.

We have to accept the fact that salt cedar, Russian olive, and Siberian elm have essentially established themselves as “native” plants; just as within the human species the Spanish colonists and later immigrants to this area now consider themselves “natives”.  Whenever a species of any type is able to successfully reproduce in a particular area, we have to accept the fact that they have found an environment that they are superbly suited to, and will undoubtedly be here into the foreseeable future.  There is simply no conceivable method of completely eradicating any of the three “invasive” trees from the most areas of the Southwest; it is only feasible in very small demonstration sites that will require expensive and continual management.  Like English sparrows, these plant species along with many hundreds of other ‘non-native’ species, have successfully established themselves permanently and must be accepted as part of the overall ecosystem. In the case of Siberian elm, one must grudgingly admire the capability of this species to widely establish itself with no supplemental irrigation; and with the massive pinon dieoff, many residential areas of Santa Fe are fortunate to have these trees which provide a high percentage of the shade in many areas of the city.  The majority of trees along the Santa Fe River east of Delgado are Siberian elms, with a few native box elder and cottonwoods.  This area is not irrigated, and therefore the ‘invasive’ trees are better able to sustain themselves than natives.  The ‘gallery’ of Siberian elms lining East Alameda near Patrick Smith Park provides an incredibly attractive, shady streetscape that can be found in many other areas of the city.  Yes, the prolific seeds seem to sprout everywhere; but in my view that is a manageable problem with a little effort, and is offset by the fact that these trees survive without supplemental irrigation. The horticultural challenge is to develop seedless selections that preserve the toughness of the species while eliminating the undesirable aspects.  The nursery industry has been working for years to develop new hybrids of elms, some of which involve Siberian parentage, and which may present less of a seed problem as well as providing an acceptable shade tree requiring little water or care. Given the extremely limited number of nursery grown shade trees that can thrive in Santa Fe – and the current limitations on planting ash trees due to the massive mortality of ash trees due to the Emerald ash borer – “invasives” may provide  the genetic makeup for future shade trees most adaptable to our area. 

Santa Fe is fortunate to have a number of very large and very old American elms (Ulmus Americana), most of which succumbed to Dutch Elm disease throughout almost all the areas of the United States where it was native or grown.  The largest here is on Old Santa Fe Trail in front of the Loretto chapel, and is over six feet in diameter at the base! Other large ones are in the ‘park’ adjacent to the federal courthouse, as well as some along East Palace Avenue.

For many decades, there have been numerous attempts to eliminate salt cedar, or Tamarisk, from riparian areas in New Mexico and other western states.  Many methods have been employed, from spraying with herbicides to uprooting plants.  Unfortunately, while these programs are all based upon laudable objectives, they are also founded upon totally unproven assumptions in general about the water consumption of the species compared to native trees. The massive herbicide applications that are required to kill any substantial stand of salt cedar often harm non-target organisms, and even a small scale application of herbicides on a rural property in New Mexico resulted in killing many acres of native grasses on an adjacent ranch that became the subject of a lawsuit for damages. 

The third “demonized” tree in Santa Fe is the Russian olive, which is a native of temperate western Asia and southeastern Europe but which has established itself in widespread locations.  The tree has very fragrant flowers and the seeds provide food for at least 30 bird species throughout the winter. It was introduced to the central and western United States in the late 1800’s as an ornamental tree and a windbreak, before spreading into the wild.  By the mid 1920’s it became naturalized in Nevada and Utah, and in Colorado in the 1950’s.  While generally considered a small tree, there are a number of Russian olives around Santa Fe taller than 50 feet.

Ailanthus altissima

Ailanthus altissima

I should also mention a fourth tree common in Santa Fe that has the undesirable characteristic of reproducing itself in unwanted places – the “Tree of Heaven” (Ailanthus altissima).  It is native of China and was introduced in 1784. This tree, like the other three, is capable of surviving in dry soils with little or no additional water but has an aggressive suckering habit as well as producing prodigious seeds that sprout in area widely removed from the source.  There is a beautiful old specimen in the corner of the Inn at Loretto on Santa Fe Trail that has a 24” trunk and presents an attractive silhouette; especially interesting in fall with the orange seeds.  A second one, across the street, pokes through the roof of the Dragon Room bar in the Pink Adobe. 

The 1943 book A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith uses the tree of heaven as its central metaphor, using it as an analogy for the ability to thrive in a difficult environment. At the time as well as now, ailanthus was common in neglected urban areas. She writes:

There's a tree that grows in Brooklyn. Some people call it the Tree of Heaven. No matter where its seed falls, it makes a tree which struggles to reach the sky. It grows in boarded up lots and out of neglected rubbish heaps. It grows up out of cellar gratings. It is the only tree that grows out of cement. It grows lushly...survives without sun, water, and seemingly earth. It would be considered beautiful except that there are too many of it.

—A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Introduction

In China, the tree of heaven has a long and rich history. It was mentioned in the oldest extant Chinese dictionary and listed in countless Chinese medical texts for its purported ability to cure ailments ranging from mental illness to baldness.  Although it was widely planted as a street tree in this country in the 1800’s, it is now considered a noxious plant and is banned in many countries including Australia and New Zealand. 

Hikers will sometimes encounter a few apricot trees that have established themselves within the pinon/juniper forest along local arroyos; and I, for one, am amazed but happy to see that these trees are able to establish themselves, in very limited circumstances, in extremely dry settings.  Likewise, I  recently witnessed an “invasion” of Siberian Pea shrub in full yellow bloom along a small riparian area within the forest off of Hyde Park Road; apparently having replaced some of the native willows that were dieing back due to lack of sufficient moisture. In this situation, as in many others, a ‘foreign’ plant has proven more capable of establishment and survival than a native within the same site.   In the event that some pest or disease attacks our local One-Seed juniper and starts to eliminate these trees from the Santa Fe area ecosystem we would have to be grateful for the diversity presented by the “invasives” that to date do not appear to be threatened by pests or disease like bark beetles and blue fungus. 

Eleagnus angustifolia

Eleagnus angustifolia

”Invasive species” typically only become established in areas that have been disturbed or otherwise altered by humans.  This is particularly true of salt cedar, which has colonized vast areas of riparian corridors that previously were subjected to flooding, but are now in controlled areas with grazing and other intrusions.  The fact is that cottonwoods require not only periodically moist soils to germinate, but permanent moisture at a relatively shallow depth in order to survive.  Salt cedars are able to get established in soils that are much drier and saltier than cottonwoods. This situation can clearly be observed along I-25 between Santa Fe and Albuquerque where salt cedar have become established on steep cut banks above the highway, and hundreds of feet above any water table. The recent drought appears to have killed many of these trees, but the fact that they were able to become established in such severe locations and survive for many years is a testament to their drought tolerance. In addition, the dense tamarisk/salt cedar ‘forest’ that formerly occupied the Galisteo River basin west of where I-25 crosses the river below La Bajada was eradicated with herbicides and now is a barren wasteland with no wildlife habitat and is incapable sustaining any native trees.  Formerly a vast shaded area, the denuded land is now subject to much more evaporation of moisture.

There has been a widely repeated myth implying that one salt cedar can absorb up to 300 gallons of water per day with little quantitative scientific data to support that view. Recent techniques using sophisticated technology have found that salt cedar trees were using much less water than was commonly assumed. In a 2004 paper by Edward Glenn, senior research scientist with the University of Arizona’s Environmental Research Laboratory, it was reported that salt cedar actually appeared to consume less water than cottonwood, based on leaf area indices.  After clearing 5,000 acres of salt cedar as part of the Pecos River Restoration Project, the water table remains unchanged. 

Dr. Juliet Stromberg of  Arizona State University  found that saltcedar actually enhances floristic diversity - herbaceous species richness and cover is significantly greater in saltcedar than cottonwood, and stem densities of native woody successional species are equivalent. Other researchers (Anderson, Everitt, Malakoff, etc.) have found that avian species richness and density in saltcedar is equivalent to native vegetation and that 90% of the endangered willow flycatchers nest in saltcedar. It was found that saltcedar actually enhances floristic diversity - herbaceous species richness and cover is significantly greater in saltcedar than cottonwood, and stem densities of native woody successional species are equivalent.

Further validation of the author’s arguments challenging the common myths about saltcedar appeared in the  November/December 2007 issue of the magazine “Southwest Hydrology”. In three well written articles, the authors present scientific arguments that question the basis and nature of efforts to control salt cedars. In “Salt Cedar Control and Riparian Restoration – Be Careful With Generalizations”, Ondrea Hummel and Todd Caplan present or summarize that there is no evidence that saltcedar stands have lower wildlife value than native woody vegetation; that saltcedar does not increase soil salinity, and state that “it is naïve to assume that simply removing saltcedar from a site will automatically translate to improved habitat.”

In the second article, “Native versus Invasive: Plant Water Use in the Middle Rio Grande Valley”, authors Nabil Shafike, Saliim Bawazir, and James Cleverly summarized a detailed ET study undertaken by a workgroup coordinated by the Bureau of Reclamation, the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission, UNM, NMSU, and LANL to estimate long-term evapotranspiration of saltcedar, cottonwood, and Russian olive communities.  This study over a period of five years concluded that saltcedar stands use less or about the same amount of water as cottonwood stands; more sparse saltcedar stands use much less water than sparse cottonwood stands.

The third article in the magazine, “Hydrologic Changes and Riparian Forests: The Saltcedar Story” by Juliet C. Stromberg of Arizona State University, the author provides evidence that it has been human induced flow regime changes that have created conditions that favor dominance of a “newcomer” to the region; and that riparian areas with perennial flow and a natural flood regime maintain a high abundance of cottonwood and willow.  She concludes that “If ecosystems are viewed as open systems, in which immigration is an ongoing process and shifting species assemblages are the norm, then the mere presence of an introduced species is not in itself a call for action.  Rather, studies should be conducted to determine if valued ecosystem functions have been affected along the reach of interest and to identify the causes of those changes before initiating restoration interventions.”

The United States Geological Survey spent four years reviewing scientific literature about salt cedar and compiling a comprehensive document with the agency’s conclusions,published in 2010. Coauthored by dozens of scientists from the USGS, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Forest Service, and universities, the Science Assessment firmly overturns the notion of water salvage. “To date, research and demonstration projects have not shown that is it feasible to salvage (or save) significant amounts of water for consumptive use by removing salt cedar,” the report states.

“Tamarisk was a convenient scapegoat for the complex problems encountered by government water managers, be they true believers in the monster or otherwise” Matthew K. Chew writes in “The Monstering of Tamarisk,” appearing in Journal of the History of Biology. A biologist at Arizona State University, Chew studied the way people create categories to recast plants into malevolent roles.

 Myths have a long life – and while there are undoubtedly many sound reasons to dislike these ‘demonized’ plants, they have become a permanent addition to our native landscapes, and only time and greater experience with both the problems as well as the benefits of these ‘invaders’ will put to rest unfounded attitudes and policies.

Contact Craig -, 505-989-4614