Carolyn Mitchell PLA works with public-sector clients to plan for equitable access to outdoor recreation at all scales. Carolyn specializes in interdisciplinary collaborations that make nature-focused recreation a priority. Carolyn emphasizes the evidence-based therapeutic benefit that access to nature provides to vulnerable populations including seniors and wounded veterans. 

Fort Benning Outdoor Recreation Plan

Image credit: Louis Berger, Inc.

Fort Benning encompasses 182,000 acres of rolling hills, forests, streams, and lakes along the Chattahoochee River. The base was established in 1918 and hosts a major training command with a population of 106,000. The exceptional scenic beauty of Fort Benning provides recreation for this population and draws military retirees and tourists to its many natural and historic attractions. Working for Louis Berger, Inc. in collaboration with the Army Installation Management Command and the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, Carolyn  produced a management framework for an $83 million, ten-year improvement program. The plan was built around a strong wayfinding concept that encompassed historic landscapes, neighborhood parks, sports and physical training facilities, and nature-based recreation. 

Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area Visitor Facilities

Image credit: Louis Berger, Inc.

Carolyn prepared a vision for visitor facilities to complement a comprehensive environmental restoration. Working as principal landscape architect for Louis Berger, Inc. Carolyn developed a program for education, interpretation and wildlife viewing features for the Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area at Cape May in New Jersey. The plan included interpretation of the site's industrial past, the restoration activities, plant and animal communities, and the migration phenomenon that draws birdwatchers from around the world to Cape May. The restored site is anticipated to be a major visitor destination for Cape May and the family of facilities ranging from trailside camouflage plantings to an education center will ensure a rich visitor experience that distributes visitors across the landscape to minimize their impact on the site and its wildlife. 

Georgetown Non-motorized Boathouse Zone Development Plan

 Image Credit: Louis Berger, Inc.

Arlington Boathouse Development Plan  

Image credit: Louis Berger, Inc. 

Carolyn prepared plans for multiple National Park Service boating facilities on the Potomac River above Key Bridge, where the flat water conditions make for perfect rowing and demand for water access is intense. Carolyn led a series of studies on both the DC and Virginia shorelines as principal landscape architect for Louis Berger, Inc. The plans establish a balanced approach to programming and siting facilities that respect the historic character, natural resources and existing recreational uses while providing substantial improvements to the waterfront. The plans increase equitable access to the water from both sides of the river. The Georgetown plan features phased development of two new boathouses along Water Street NW, an expanded kayak rental facility, and reconfiguration of the streetscape to improve the connections of the Capital Crescent Trail and Georgetown Waterfront Park. The Virginia plan features a flood-resilient boathouse and a new soft launch.  

Gulf State Park Improvement Project 

Image credit: Louis Berger, Inc.

In response to the Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Carolyn worked with state officials as principal landscape architect for Louis Berger, Inc. ​​​​​​​to define a strategic plan to restore the lost environmental and economic benefits of nature-based tourism. The strategic plan focused on improvements to the state’s flagship 6,000 acre park. The plan realigned the park as an ecotourism destination and model of resilient coastal development and was the basis of the state’s $84 million compensation award.  The15 miles of trails and boardwalks, replacement of the Gulf State Lodge, restoration of the park’s dune system, a coastal interpretive pavilion, and an environmental education center have been fully executed as defined, establishing Alabama as a leader in environmental stewardship and restoring its coast as a thriving ecotourism destination. ​​​​​​​

​​​​​​​Evidence-based Design Paradigm for Therapeutic Landscapes 

Image credit: Louis Berger, Inc.

Carolyn led a series of landscape design projects at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center designed to improve the experience of veterans rehabilitating at the newly merged Army and Navy facilities at the Bethesda campus. The design principles developed for the setting in collaboration with hospital clinicians define spaces that are manageable, provide social support, offer purposeful activities, and harness the healing power of nature. The evidence-based approach to nature-focused recreation design for rehabilitation settings is published in a peer-reviewed article co-authored with clinician collaborators.
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