Do We Have What It Takes to Form an ASLA Chapter?

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What happens when almost 20 landscape architects gather to grapple with the question of forming our own Maine chapter of ASLA on a Saturday in June? A whole lot of energetic, frank, and honest dialogue, that’s what! Read on to learn what your LA peers are thinking about the future of our professional organization in Maine, and what it might mean for you…

Excitement and anticipation were in the air, starting the preceding evening with a small focus group (and beer and pizza!) that gathered at a local eatery in Portland to meet Julia Lent, Hon. ASLA, and Managing Director of Member and Chapter Services for ASLA National. Joining the group also was Randy Knowles, current president of the NH Granite State Chapter. Setting the stage for the Saturday sessions, the primary discussion focused on the “reality factor” of calving off from the Boston chapter and starting our own independent one.

The Saturday morning session focused on a SWOT (Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats) analysis of chapter formation. The accompanying graphic highlights some of the most frequently occurring ideas. The afternoon was spent diving into the weeds about what the mechanics of chapter formation would entail.

Clearly, the fact that Maine LA’s are small in number in an extra-large state poses additional hurdles. We are spread out, tend to be working in smaller firms or are sole practitioners, making involvement in a professional organization challenging in terms of time and resources. Many may not associate value with involvement in ASLA, leading to lack of interest.

The potential benefits to both the profession and the state, though, became more tangible through discussion. Leveraging available resources from National ASLA could enable increased promotion of the profession in Maine through public awareness and advocacy initiatives, giving us the opportunity to collectively address design and planning issues critical to our state, and getting ourselves out there in front of potential clients, to boot. Opportunities to collaborate with allied professionals, educational outreach in our schools, and multiple options for professional development, could further build our professional strength, bringing value to our members, clients, and communities.

A series of meetings around the state are being planned this fall and early winter to engage those who couldn’t make it to Portland for the June sessions. We want to take the discussion to you to make sure we are hearing all voices before making a final commitment to chapter formation. This is all about you, and us – all of us together. We look forward to continuing the dialogue. Be on the lookout for more information and details to follow.