Interdisciplinary Work and National Cemeteries
Written by: Craig Somers
Asset Management Fellow, Washington Support Office Park Cultural Landscape Program
Beginning in 2022 the Park Cultural Landscapes Program (PCLP), in concert with the Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation, the Park Historic Structures Program and other NPS division partners, embarked on a multi-year project—the National Cemetery Investment Initiative (NCII)—to assess the deferred maintenance of the 14 NPS-managed national cemeteries with the goal of improving their condition. Over the past decades, the condition of the national cemeteries has deteriorated, in part, due to a lack of NPS capacity to carry out preservation maintenance, as well as climate change impacts. Since May I have been working as part of a multi-disciplinary NPS team of historical architects and landscape architects, horticulturalists, GIS specialists, facility managers, and building and monument conservators. Over the summer I participated in fieldwork at five sites to document the condition of features like historic trees, shrubs, turf, headstones, perimeter walls, and drainage systems. We use GIS to collect and analyze asset deficiency data in the field before cost estimating and developing work orders and writing project statements. Packaged together, this data will be utilized by NPS parks and regional managers to meet Section 106 and NEPA compliance, to request NPS funding for future Maintenance Action Teams, and to draw on partners, like youth conservation organizations, to implement the preservation maintenance work.
In 2020 I completed my MA in Public History at Colorado State University with a focus on historic preservation and cultural resource management. After graduation I began a NCPE internship with the PCLP before accepting an ACE Fellowship. Previously, I attended programs in design and architecture. Working with the PCLP as an ACE Fellow has been a great opportunity to engage my background in design and history. The PCLP, and specifically the NCII, has challenged me to think critically about the relationship between natural and cultural resources and the need for inter-disciplinary teams to manage historic landscapes. During my fellowship I have taken advantage of professional development opportunities including training in NPS asset management, GIS applications, preservation horticulture, Section 106 of the NHPA, and Tribal consultation. In just over a year, I have greatly expanded my knowledge of NPS preservation practices and facility management processes, as well as contributed to a major investment initiative that will improve the condition of nationally significant cultural landscapes across the country. In the future, I hope to continue building cross-disciplinary relationships with natural resource managers, building trades specialists, SHPOs, interpreters, facility managers, architects and engineers, descendant communities, youth corps, and everyone in between as I work to preserve heritage resources on public lands.