Sustainability and the Environment Internship: Sustainable Landscaping in Monteverde, Costa Rica, by Kendall Rauch, University of Colorado Boulder
For the past few weeks, I have been working with sustainable landscape designer Felipe Negrini in the ProNativas native plant garden, New Forest Park. ProNativas Monteverde is a local initiative whose mission is to “raise awareness about the importance, propagation, and use of native ornamental plants and their contribution in conservation, and the beauty and identity of Costa Rica.” ProNativas advances this mission through the New Forest Park native garden in Monteverde, which serves as a community meeting space, as well as a showcase and educational forum for native ornamental species. My goal in this internship was to design, construct, and implement a hardscaping project in order to enhance the park and promote community use. I built a table with seating, a trail leading to the area with the table, and an epiphyte arch at one of the entrances.
I wanted to participate in this internship because I was initially impressed with the work that ProNativas is doing to promote the use of native ornamental plant species and their role as a conservation tool. The impact that visiting New Forest Park had on me and my understanding of the capability of native ornamentals to both create a beautiful garden, and support native fauna and ecosystem services, was something that I wanted to participate in raising awareness about. I was drawn to the landscaping/hardscaping position because I enjoy thinking spatially and working with my hands, and wanted to develop both of those skills.
I started this internship by getting to know the Monteverde region and the native plants and local resources that are available here. In the first few days I spent a lot of time in New Forest Park creating a site analysis, which allowed me to get to know the space, and I interviewed frequent users of the park to get an idea of the needs of the park. I used these interviews and the site analysis as a guide to make a landscape proposal, and I developed three of my hardscaping ideas more fully before deciding to move forward with a table with benches and a laja (flagstone) trail. Felipe and I sourced all of the materials needed for the projects locally within Monteverde, including laja, wood, rocks, and sand. We built the table using a cut tree trunk that was sunk into the ground, with a large laja slab resting on top. The seats surrounding it are large rocks that were found near the park.
Participating in this internship was a great experience, and the lessons I learned and experiences I had with native plant gardening, sustainable landscaping and resource use, landscape design, and building useable furniture, are invaluable to me. After being given the opportunity to work outside and the tools to create something lasting and meaningful there, I am very interested in pursuing a career in sustainable building or development of some kind. The independence that Felipe allowed me to have throughout the development of my project strengthened my confidence, decision making and plan development skills, which I am sure I will take with me in future creative, academic, and professional ventures.