SITKA — Lynne Brandon, parks and recreation manager for the City and Borough of Sitka, has won the “GreenBelt” Award from the Alaska Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.
The award recognizes individuals who are not landscape architect professionals but support the mission of the ASLA “to lead, educate and participate in the careful stewardship, wise planning and artful design of our cultural and natural environment.”
Brandon will receive her award from Tom Tavella, the president of the American Society of Landscape Architects at a ceremony May 13 in Anchorage.
Local landscape architect Monique Anderson nominated Brandon for the award.
“Lynne’s work in Sitka contributes to our access to everyday places in Sitka, like the Swan Lake dock, the Kimsham fields, the skate park and the Cross Trial,” Anderson said. “I’m thrilled we can recognize Lynne as a professional who is supportive of the mission of the Alaska Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architecture.”
Brandon said she was pleased to be recognized, and said the award acknowledges the value that the city places on its green space and landscaping. She believes she was nominated because Anderson has an understanding of what goes into each city project.
“Monique recognizes the amount of effort and planning, and number of projects we’ve done — and the Tree and Landscape Committee has done — to green up Sitka, and the work we’ve done to improve the city’s grounds over the year and make them beautiful,” Brandon said. “The Tree and Landscape Committee has been awesome to work with. We started with a lot of green areas in the first place.”
She listed Crescent Harbor, Crescent Park and the Centennial Hall grounds as early examples, as well as the initial plantings completed by Bill Kleinert, the city’s longtime groundskeeper.
“In the early days, it was thinking ahead about what Sitka should look like,” Brandon said. She gave credit to Kleinert as well as the current parks and ground maintenance supervisor Shawn McLeod and staff member Jud Kirkness for their work in making sure the city looks beautiful and is well-maintained.
Brandon has held the top job in Parks and Recreation since 2002.
Over the last 11 years, the Parks and Recreation Committee and Brandon’s department have worked together on a number of landscaping projects including plantings at Baranof Elementary School, the fire hall, Blatchley Middle School, Centennial Hall, the O’Connell Bridge approach and Castle Hill parking lot. About 200 trees have been planted in recent years, she said.
Brandon said the green space of a community, including landscaping and plantings, is valuable on several levels.
“It’s vastly important for the quality of life for residents and making a community more livable and walkable,” she said. “For the visitor industry, it’s key to have our downtown be beautiful and have green space within the downtown. One of the striking things about Sitka, compared to other communities, is the green space. When people come here, that’s their first impression. It’s a wonderful way for people to first see and experience Sitka.”
Brandon started her career in Sitka as a seasonal park ranger at the Sitka National Historical Park, followed by seven years as the state park ranger for Sitka. She took time off to continue pursuing her career in art and raise two sons. In 2002, she applied for the Parks and Rec job, which was a fairly new department in the city.
Brandon grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and earned a degree in park management from Colorado State University. She moved to Sitka in 1979. She said she has always been interested in gardening and landscape architecture.
“I like working and designing,” she said.
Linda Speerstra, a member on the Tree and Landscape Committee for more than eight years, said Brandon deserves this recognition.
“Her leadership has been invaluable, as well as her Parks and Recreation affiliation, and her affiliation with the city,” Speerstra said. “She’s been able to head up a lot of these projects that have beautified our city. She’s brought in a lot of volunteers, such as the Pioneers of Alaska, which is taking on the (care of the) abutment to O’Connell Bridge. She’s been instrumental in Earth Day and Arbor Day. Without her passion a lot of those things wouldn’t have happened.”
Among others being recognized at the ceremony on May 13 are former Gov. Tony Knowles, for his work on the Tony Knowles urban trail; Neil Stichert from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for wildlife restoration projects; and the University of Alaska Anchorage for experimental tree plantings.