PALS-focused Conservation Biology Course at Work in Frederick


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We recently spoke with Keryn Gedan about her Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS) class to learn more about what she and her students were up to in the City of Frederick.

National Center for Smart Growth (NCSG): What’s the title of your course and what’s the class composition like?

Keryn: The title of course is Conservation Biology. It’s all graduate students. Some of them are policy students, most of whom are in the Master’s program in Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology, which is housed within the Biology Department under the College of Computer, Mathematics, and Natural Sciences.

NCSG: How did you get involved with the PALS program?

Keryn: I grew up in Frederick, Maryland so when I heard about the program I was really excited to be able to do something for my hometown. I’ve seen a lot of changes in Frederick in my lifetime; I grew up in Frederick County, just five miles outside the city. There’s been a lot of development there and a lot of the farms have been turned into neighborhoods. I’m a conservation biologist so I thought there was a real need for conservation biology.

NCSG: How did that hometown perspective serve you as you formed the classwork?

Keryn: I looked on the list of projects the city proposed and there was one to try to make a plan for the future of the municipal watershed. That’s the 7,000 acre forest that the city owns outside the city limits, near Gambrill State Park. They’ve owned the property for centuries to keep high water quality in their water supply. There’s a reservoir within the municipal watershed that accounts for about 12% of the city’s water supply. It’s about the only source that they directly control because the other sources of water are through rivers and creeks that are flowing through Frederick but not contained within Fredrick’s control. I was interested in studying that water supply with my students and thought this would be a really neat opportunity for my students to apply some of the principles that we learn about in conservation biology to examine the problems we look at a global scale and how they affect a community at a local scale and what we can do about them. So it’s really perfect.

NCSG: Have you and your students had an opportunity to visit Frederick yet?

Keryn: We had a site visit all together where we toured the Frederick City Watershed. We were joined by a forester from Department of Natural Resources, Adam Miller, and Jenny Willoughby, the City’s Sustainability Manager.

We visited some sites within the watershed to look at some of the issues they’re dealing with. They have a lot of unauthorized recreation in that property – especially mountain biking. We saw some of the trails the mountains bikers made and the structures built there. We also looked at invasive plant species, species not native to the region, and what DNR was doing to manage those species and how widely distributed they were.

Students with Forester Adam Miller, from the Department of Natural Resources.

NCSG: How have students reacted to getting outside the classroom and applying some of this learning in a real-world setting?

Keryn: They’ve loved it. It’s been a really positive component of my course. I feel like they’re able to do more independent work. Last year their term project was an independent paper on a topic of their choosing; their work just ended with me. What I really like about PALS is not only are they working as a group, which is a real world, professional experience, but also their work is going to have an impact and it won’t end with me. As such, the work is more interesting and exciting to them and it’s also more realistic. They deal with the constraints of the real world: data availability and uncertainty – these are all issues that play out in the real world but often don’t play out in the classroom.

NCSG: How are the students working together?

Keryn: Well the students are divided into three separate groups – each focusing on a specific deliverable. One is working on invasive species within the park and the expected future of those species given climate change and management activities. The second group is looking at the uses of the watershed and how those uses have changed over time. The third group is examining future climate change and what that will do to water supply.

They’ve taken those themes and narrowed them further. The invasive species group decided to look at the effect of trails on the spread of invasive species within the watershed, which is helpful since the City is reconsidering the rules on recreational users and whether to redefine the trail network so it will be incredibly informative to know how trails affect invasive species. The second group decided to survey users of the watershed and find out how people are using it, where they’re coming from. They sent out a survey through Frederick City networks and surveyed community members at farmer’s markets and other events. They’ve received over 400 responses, which is amazing. They’ll use this information to determine how different generations of users are using the park and reconstruct the evolution of how people use the park. The last group is looking at climate change and what that will do to water supply.

[This is part one of a two-part feature. Tomorrow, we’ll hear from Kiel Edson, a student in Keryn’s course, about the fieldwork he and his classmates have done in Frederick.]

Students in a PALS-focused Conservation Biology course in the field as part of their work in the City of Frederick.


Hyattsville Purple Line Community Compact Workshop


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Next week on Monday, November 17, officials from the State of Maryland and Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties will join forces again with the Purple Line Corridor Coalition (PLCC) and stakeholders to continue development on a Purple Line Community Compact.  The compact will articulate a livability strategy designed to foster vibrant economic and community development for those who live and work along the 16-mile corridor. Leaders from community organizations, civic associations, business and labor associations, and others with a stake in the Purple Line corridor will have an opportunity to help develop the compact on Monday, November 17 from 4-7pm at Felegy Elementary School in Hyattsville.

Purple Line Community Compact Workshop Session

Last month’s event in downtown Silver Spring at the Civic Center brought high turnout and a great exchange in ideas. Be sure to review our social media recap of the day’s events before next Monday’s workshop.

You can join in the conversation online by using the hashtags #PLCC and #PurpleLine.


Carbon and Energy PALS Course Visits Frederick


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One week ago, on Friday, October 31, students from The Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS) course “The Carbon and Energy Economy for Planners” visited Frederick, Maryland to apply their in-classroom learning to the city.

The day’s events began with a tour of the Wastewater Treatment facility. The often overlooked but essential city service provided students a window into routine city operations that are part of everyday life. Students learned that peak demand occurs from approximately 10:30am – 1:30pm several hours after activities associated with morning routines run through the city’s separated sewer system. In addition, students also discovered more about the efficiency upgrades the facility is due to undergo – upgrades that will bring the from a tier three energy consumer to a tier two energy consumer.

From there, students went to lunch at historic downtown Frederick staple Crabapples. The group then walked a short distance to Baker Park to meet with recently appointed City of Frederick Sustainability Director Jenny Willoughby. There, Willoughby discussed the sustainability efforts underway in the city and spoke to the broader landscape for energy efficient and climate conscious actions already underway. Students asked Willoughby questions about their course deliverables as they pertain to carbon emissions associated with city buildings and transportation.

Students capped off the day in Frederick with a walking tour of historic downtown Frederick learning about the city’s rich architectural past. Though the day’s formal events concluded outside Frederick City Hall, several students stayed afterwards to shop and support local businesses – one of the added benefits from the PALS program for Frederick.

Students gather at the Wastewater Treatment Facility in Frederick, Maryland.

Students gather at the Wastewater Treatment Facility in Frederick, Maryland.

Jenny Willoughby speaks with students about her new role as Sustainability Director for the City of Frederick.

Jenny Willoughby speaks with students about her new role as Sustainability Director for the City of Frederick.

Passersby along Carroll Creek Park in historic downtown Frederick, Maryland.

Passersby along Carroll Creek Park in historic downtown Frederick, Maryland.

The view along Carroll Creek Park.

The view along Carroll Creek Park.


Students received a walking architecture tour in historic downtown Frederick, Maryland.



Conversation with Architecture Professor Matt Bell on work in Frederick


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We recently sat down with Professor of Architecture Matt Bell to discuss his Architecture 700 – Urban Design Studio course and the work he and his students are focused on in Frederick, Maryland as part of the University’s work through the Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS) program. After our conversation with Matt, you’ll find images created by the students in the Urban Design Studio course. The posters, currently on display in Frederick City Hall, are meant to highlight the city’s landmark attractions.


National Center for Smart Growth (NCSG): How many students are in the class?

Matt Bell: There are 17 students and they are Master of Architecture graduate students. This class and the work associated with it, occurs right before they do their thesis.

NCSG: What areas are you focused on in Frederick?

MB: We’re going to look at the entry into Frederick from the Jefferson Street entry on the west side and we’re going to look at the east side of the city – Church [Street], Patrick [Street], and Carroll Creek. What’s interesting about it is that they’re both sort of ends of Carroll Creek Park, they bracket Carroll Creek with the historic district down the middle.

NCSG: Could you briefly describe the areas in which students will be working?

MB: The east side is the former industrial area where the trade yards were and all the brick manufacturing and whatnot so there’s a lot of old industrial buildings there. And on the west side is really the post-World War II suburban expansion. And on the west side there is a number of older properties like car dealerships and older manufacturing that are near the end of their useful life in those areas and ripe for re-development. And on the east side there is a lot of older industrial buildings and some sites there so we’re going to try and figure out how they relate to Carroll Creek, how they can aggregate into some gateway into the downtown, how to make these areas more walkable, what sorts of program uses ought to be considered in these areas.


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Students, Faculty & Staff Attend Annual Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) Conference


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This past weekend, several students, faculty and staff from the National Center for Smart Growth travelled to Philadelphia for the annual Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) conference. Students and faculty used this time to present their research before an audience of like-minded peers and answered questions about their ongoing research.

National Center for Smart Growth Director Dr. Gerrit Knaap described the conference as “an excellent opportunity to collaborate and share our findings with others to advance the reach of the National Center for Smart Growth.” Knaap was joined by six students, numerous faculty and staff including Dr. Jim Cohen, Director of UMD’s Community Planning Program. Knaap added, “It’s one of many opportunities we take advantage of each year to expand the breadth and scope of our work. It gives students the opportunity to present their findings and the experience they need to succeed after their time at the University of Maryland.”

Subjects discussed included the National Center for Smart Growth’s ongoing efforts along the Purple Line Corridor and regional work in affordable housing. The full list of presentations and papers can be found below.

Even Smarter Growth? Land Use, Transportation and Greenhouse Gas in Maryland Rolf Moeckel, Uri P. Avin and Timothy F. Welch Presentation   Paper

Place Type for Transportation Decision Making Report Chao Liu, Ting Ma, Eli Knaap, and Gerrit Knaap Presentation   Paper

Mapping Opportunity: A Critical Assessment Eli Knaap, Gerrit Jan-Knaap, and Chao Liu Presentation   Paper

How Vehicle Access Enables Low-Income Households to Live in Better Neighborhoods Casey Dawkins, Jai Sik Jeon, and Rolf Pendall Presentation

How Fair Market Rents Limit Voucher Households to Live in Better Neighborhoods: The Case of Baltimore Metropolitan Area Jae Sik Jeon Presentation

Use of Social & Behavioral Science Theory to Understand Transit Use Hiroyuki Iseki and Angela Martinez Presentation

Fixed Effects Panel Data Analysis of Gasoline Prices, Fare, Service Supply, and Service Frequency on Transit Ridership in Ten U.S. Urbanized Areas Hiroyuki Iseki and Rubaba Ali Presentation   Paper

Analyzing Employment Accessibility in a Multimodal Network using GTFS: A Demonstration of the Purple Line, Maryland Ting Ma and Gerrit Jan-Knapp Presentation   Paper

Housing the Region’s Future Workforce – Join us Wednesday, November 5 at 12pm

The University of Maryland Urban Studies and Planning Program and the National Center for Smart Growth’s 2014 Brown Bag Webinar Series resumes with a presentation by Lisa Sturtevant.

Housing the Region’s Future Workforce

Wednesday, November 5 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM

Preinkert Field House – Conference Room 1112V University of Maryland College Park

A region’s economic growth potential depends critically on the availability of a sufficient supply of housing for workers—in the right places, of the right types and at the right prices and rents. Lisa Sturtevant will present results from a study of employment-driven housing demand in the Washington DC metro area (for the 2012-2032 period) and will discuss the relationships among job growth, housing planning, and transportation investment.

Lisa Sturtevant, PhD Executive Director, Center for Housing Policy Vice President for Research, National Housing Conference

Lisa A. Sturtevant’s primary areas of research include the relationship between housing and economic growth, residential mobility, and demographics. Her research has appeared in Growth and Change, Journal of Urban Affairs and Journal of the Center for Real Estate Studies. Prior to becoming head of the Center for Housing Policy, Dr. Sturtevant was Associate Research Professor at the George Mason University School of Public Policy and Deputy Director of the GMU Center for Regional Analysis.

For more information, visit:

Frederick Fun Facts


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With our first semester in Frederick over half way complete, we compiled some fun facts about the city that students and visitors alike may find interesting.

Do You Know Frederick?

Type “Frederick, Maryland” into Google and your computer will practically smoke with the over five million sites chocked with information on the western Maryland city.  Founded in 1745 by German settlers, The City of Frederick today boasts over 65,000 residents, making it the second largest city in Maryland after Baltimore.

Considered a hub of justice in Western Maryland prior to the 20th century (famous lawyers the likes of Francis Scott Key were legal fixtures), Frederick is now famous for its historic homes, Civil War battlefields, architectural spires and an eclectic, bustling downtown. But did you know Frederick was at one time home to Patsy Cline? Or that it boasts three critically acclaimed restaurants by Top Chef and James Beard finalist Bryan Voltaggio?

But wait, there’s more! Here are a few other Frederick fun facts:

Frederick is well-known for is its religious pluralism, erecting a bevy of churches in the 17 and 1800s, whose spires to this day dominate its trademark skyline.

  • Surrounded on multiple sides by historic battlegrounds, Frederick served as a major hospital center during the Civil War for the walking wounded. The city also escaped certain torching during the war after forking over a $200,000 ransom for Confederate Jubal Early.
  • Its 40-block historic district, combined with a thriving arts and culture scene, has earned Frederick numerous designations, including the #1 Most Secure Place to Live in the U.S. by Forbes Magazine, the Finest Historic District by Maryland Life Magazine, A top Eight “Small Town Comeback” by CNN and the Eighth Small Arts City in the U.S. by Style Magazine.
  • Famed Maryland lawyer and American patriot Francis Scott Key, who practiced in Frederick and later penned the Star Spangled Banner, is interred in the city’s Mount Olivet cemetery.
  • Frederick’s Community Bridge, which appears to be a charming work of skilled masonry, is actually a complete illusion: a plain concrete bridge painted by hand by artist William Cochran and his assistants to look like an old stone bridge. Using advanced trompe l’oeil (“deceive the eye”) techniques, it took artists approximately four hours to paint each of the 2200 “stones.”
  • While there is debate over where the city got its name, general consensus is that Frederick was named after Frederick Calvert 6th Baron Baltimore, one of the proprietors of the State of Maryland.
  • The Joseph Dill Baker carillon in Frederick’s Baker Park is the largest musical instrument in Maryland.Interested in learning more about Frederick? Check out its very thorough Wikipedia page.

The Community Compact: Mapping a Vibrant Future along Transit Corridors


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This Saturday, October 25, 2014, stakeholders from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties will come together to map out a vision for community and economic development along the MTA’s proposed new light rail, The Purple Line. Since the MTA’s announcement in 2011, opinions on the purple line—and the fate of the communities along it—have run a spectrum of emotion, from apprehension to excitement. Assuring that the train running through 16 miles of suburban Maryland brings with it the promise of each community’s desires is a daunting task, but also a rare opportunity. It requires a collective effort of the players involved. Enter the Purple Line Community Compact.

Compacts are not just a way of mitigating the angst and conflict that can arise from changes in urban fabric, they provide a common creed for communities and a road map for major players involved in development. Seattle, Denver, Portland and Atlanta have all reaped the benefits of successful corridor planning and community engagement. While a non-binding agreement, a compact provides a common vision, and a commitment by major players to build and follow a framework for future development.  Compacts often include commitments to preserve housing choices, support small businesses during and after construction, connect workers with jobs, and efforts to create vibrant, sustainable, and equitable communities. Community Compacts are typically signed by elected and appointed government officials; leaders of community, business, and labor organizations; and representatives of key public and private institutions.

Leading the Purple Line compact creation process is The Purple Line Corridor Coalition, an alliance of government and community leaders administered by the University of Maryland’s National Center for Smart Growth (NCSG).  Building on stakeholder input and goals identified at the coalition’s March 2014 kick off workshop, “Beyond the Tracks,” the PLCC will lead stakeholders through two fall brainstorming workshops. The first, on October 25th, and a second on November 17th will work to identify shared principles and supporting strategies behind four key objectives, or “buckets”:

  • Ensuring Housing Choices for All
  • Supporting & Growing Local Businesses
  • Building a Thriving Labor Market
  • Celebrating Neighborhood Identities

The PLCC expects to receive feedback from more than 100 leaders with significant interest in the health and vitality of the Purple Line corridor, including local and state government, community organizations, business associations, design and development firms, and other organizations. Stakeholders will also have the opportunity to post their thoughts, ideas and feedback online through the PLCC website between workshops.

The strategy behind a community compact process is that, once the conversation begins, common goals will come into focus, providing a window to formulate strategies to support and mobilize actions towards each goal. When Baltimore stakeholders were developing the compact for the Red Line, stakeholders included several strategies to mitigate community impact during the construction phase, including employing “rapid response” community liaisons, creating an aggressive marketing campaign for affected small businesses and enlisting regular, multi-lingual communication mechanisms throughout the process.

Community Compacts are a first step in realizing sustainable, economic development within a new transit corridor. Its common community vision can be a catalyst for action. Yet, a compact is just the beginning. Once the ink has dried, the real work of planning the corridor—which includes fundraising, initiating programs and implementing policy—begins in earnest. The goal, which the PLCC hopes will be realized through the compact process, is to make those next steps clear and hold purpose.

Learn more about what a Community Compact could realize for the Purple Line Corridor by visiting the PLCC’s website, which also includes compacts developed by Baltimore and Seattle, projection maps from the NCSG and the report from March’s workshop, “Beyond the Tracks.” Community organizations interested in participating can learn more here.

PLCC Symposium 1

Participants gather at “Beyond the Tracks,” a forum held on March 21, 2014, hosted by the National Center for Smart Growth.


Participants speak at "Beyond the Tracks," a forum held on March 21, 2014 hosted by the National Center for Smart Growth.

Participants speak at “Beyond the Tracks,” a forum held on March 21, 2014, hosted by the National Center for Smart Growth.

Fourth Annual Open Planning Tools Group Symposium in Silver Spring, Maryland

Fourth Annual Open Planning Tools Group Symposium

in Silver Spring, Maryland

Join the National Center for Smart Growth and Montgomery County Planning Department for the country’s leading work-session for scenario planning tool developers, researchers, and high-level users. The Fourth Annual Open Planning Tools Group Symposium will be held from Sunday, November 16 through Tuesday, November 18 in Downtown Silver Spring, Maryland.

The symposium will highlight key projects coordinated by group members such as the curriculum development and the FOSS4G hackathon. Tool developers will also have the opportunity to showcase their latest advancements. The symposium builds on years of work funded by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and the Sonoran Institute’s Western Lands and Communities Program.

Tentative Agenda:


Sunday, November 16, 2014:

6:30-9:00pm – Opening dinner


Monday, November 17, 2014:

8:00am-3:15pm – Lightning talks, sessions

3:30pm-7:00pm – Keynote/panel discussions


Tuesday, November 18, 2014:

8:00am-4:15pm – Recap, discussions, next steps


Registration is $200.00 per person. Opening dinner, two breakfasts, and two lunches are included in the registration fee. Register here:

Overnight Accommodations: Participants are responsible for hotel costs. A group rate of $149.00 + tax is available at the Doubletree. Please reserve your room by November 1 at the group page.

Frederick City Officials Visit Campus


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Officials and staff from The City of Frederick made two road trips to College Park last week to get an update on several student projects. This sort of cross-collaboration with the city is what makes the PALS program so effective; it keeps the students on track with the city’s needs while providing the city a glimpse of promising new ideas as they start to take root.

Following his visits, Joe Adkins from Frederick’s Planning Department shared his thoughts, found below:

Staff from the City of Frederick just made two visits to the campus at College Park to get updates on classes.

Richard Griffin & Lisa Murphy presented information to Dr. Ramirez’s Economics of Preservation class. After the presentation from City staff, the questions asked by the students were thoughtful and insightful.

Tim Davis, Jackie Marsh & Joe Adkins listen to a presentation of Dr. Ellis’ Designing the Shared Use Path related to a specific parcel in the City. The interaction between the students and staff was very engaging.

While there is an obvious benefit to the students engaged in the PALS program, there is also a real value to staff.  This type of dialogue allows staff to start thinking outside the constraints of their local government roles, seeing these projects with a new and fresh perspective.

City staff left both classes impressed with the work completed so early in the semester.


Joe Adkins from Frederick’s Planning Department speaks with students during a September tour of Frederick. Adkins and other officials from Frederick visited College Park last week.


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