The National Association for Olmsted Parks (NAOP) annually recognizes individuals, organizations, projects, and programs that help advance and raise the visibility of the Olmsted legacy. In November, board members, staff, Olmsted family members, and friends gathered in San Francisco and virtually for an awards luncheon, where NAOP announced the winners and celebrated their achievements.
The first of these awards was the Caroline Loughlin Volunteer Service Award, established in 2005 to recognize “extraordinary dedication and commitment to the preservation of the Olmsted legacy.” Named after Caroline Loughlin— a valued trustee, officer, and long-time supporter of NAOP— the award has been given to trailblazers such as Charlie Beveridge, Newt Levee, Susan Rademacher, and Gerry Wright for their efforts to promote and protect the Olmsted legacy.
This year, it was with profound appreciation and admiration that we awarded the Caroline Loughlin Volunteer Service Award to another deserving champion— Lucy Lawliss. Over a period of three decades, Lawliss has shown “extraordinary dedication and commitment” in her countless contributions to the organization and the Olmsted legacy. As a board member and chair, she solidified partnerships with ASLA chapters, established the Olmsted Network, drafted compelling advocacy letters to city officials when Olmsted landscapes were threatened, and supported state and national nominations for Olmsted sites. Perhaps most importantly, Lawliss envisioned Olmsted 200 as a chance to renew public interest in Olmsted and reinvigorate NAOP. When she left the board in 2021, Lawliss undertook another remarkable Olmsted initiative— a survey of Olmsted landscapes by Connecticut. The survey joins her exceptional achievement of editing The Master List of Design Projects of the Olmsted Firm, 1857-1979.
NAOP established a new award category, the President’s Award, recognizing two exceptional supporters of Olmsted 200 and Olmsted’s vision of parks for all people: Adrian Benepe and Mike Messner. These awards will be given when circumstances warrant recognizing exemplary service.
Adriane Benepe became an Olmsted aficionado at a very early age while working in Central Park as a teenager. In the nearly four decades since then, Benepe has proven his dedication to parks through public and nonprofit service. As Commissioner of Parks and Recreation for New York City, Benepe added parkland throughout every borough, restored woodlands and wetlands, revived polluted rivers, saved community gardens, and advocated for equitable access to green spaces. From the High Line to the Olmsted-Beil Farmhouse, Benepe has left an undeniable mark on public parkland in the New York City area. So too, Benepe had a remarkable hand in Olmsted 200, bringing in two partners and serving on the Olmsted 200 Honorary Committee. He currently heads the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, a proud Olmsted Brothers landscape (Job No. 03960).
For over two decades, Michael Messner and the Messner family have been responsible for raising the visibility of the Olmsted legacy through thoughtful programming and policies that draw attention to the unique value of Olmsted parks and landscapes. As a savvy businessman, Messner doesn’t just see parks as pretty places but as a critical investment for people and communities. From his partnership with Georgia Tech to fund Olmsted Professorships to his work with City Parks Alliance and Georgia Tech Research Institute to develop Redfields to Greenfields, he has shown a deep commitment to community revitalization and Olmsted’s value of parks for all people. Most notably, the Messners put Olmsted on the PBS map with their superb documentary, Olmsted and America’s Urban Parks, narrated by Kerry Washington. The documentary has attracted thousands of viewers and prompted a lively conversation about Olmsted’s relevance today. Much like Benepe, Messner and his film have played a vital role in Olmsted 200. He, too, serves on the Olmsted 200 Honorary Committee.
Last but certainly not least, NAOP was pleased to award a Certificate of Appreciation to Fenella Hecksher. Hecksher, alongside The Garden Club of Orange and Dutchess Counties, used Olmsted 200 to kickstart the restoration of Downing Park in Newburgh, NY, the last great project undertaken by Frederick Law Olmsted, Calvert Vaux, and their sons. The park, which overlooks the Hudson River and features sweeping meadows, hills and valleys, serpentine paths, and picturesque views, had fallen into disrepair, but thanks to Hecksher and others in Newburgh, the park will once again shine. Heckscher has become a moving force for Downing Park’s long-term restoration, with a goal to “plant a seed” that would grow into a comprehensive restoration. With a $10,000 restoration grant from The Garden Club of America and a lot of hard work, Hecksher’s aim to bring the park back to life is slowly but surely coming to fruition.
See more photos from the event here.
Do you know of an individual or institution that deserves to be recognized for commitment to the work and living legacy of Frederick Law Olmsted? Nominations for our 2023 awards will open soon. Email email@example.com for more information.