Sustainable Growth Commission Celebrates Winners of 2020 Sustainable Growth Challenge

Planning Assistance in Action

The term sustainability is ubiquitous in the planning profession: sustainable development, sustainable processes, sustainable buildings, sustainable ecosystems, sustainable design, sustainable financing,  This list could go on for the rest of the article. As a concept, sustainability is framed by the three E’s of Environment, Economics, and Equity. The winning teams of this year’s Sustainable Growth Challenge exemplify all three.

On February 13, the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission’s (the commission) Education Workgroup welcomed six teams of six to eight graduate and undergraduate students from Maryland to present projects completed during their 2019 semesters. Submissions represented the academic disciplines of landscape architecture, urban planning, applied agriculture, and business development. The March 23 award ceremony has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the celebration must go on!

“The work of the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission is fulfilling, vital, and impactful,” said Commission Chair Susan Summers. “I take my role as its Chair very seriously, but I have the most fun each year when college students from around the state present their award-winning projects to the commission. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are rescheduling the award ceremony, usually held in March, to a later date. But that should not delay our celebration of the excellent work of these students! Their exemplary efforts inspire greater enthusiasm in our effort as an advisory body, and encourage us to maintain and strengthen our engagement with the next generation of Maryland’s leaders in sustainability.” 

The Sustainable Growth Challenge is a program engaging Maryland college students in developing creative solutions to sustainability, while also providing a career-building, real world learning experience. The challenge is an interdisciplinary exercise promoting economic growth, environmental stewardship, and sustainable land use at the community level. All students attending a Maryland college, along with their professors, are eligible to submit entries, though they must represent student- driven work. Projects focus on sustainable investment in Maryland’s communities, while concentrating on the three E’s. The commission is happy to announce this year’s three winners! The projects are described below based on the descriptions of the student submissions. 

Changing Landscapes: Farmsteads and Resort Towns 

(University of Maryland, College Park) In the 2019 fall semester, UMD’s Historic Preservation Studio class worked with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) in Prince George’s County to create a heritage trail and comprehensive guide linking the communities of Aquasco, Eagle Harbor, and Cedar Haven in the southern part of the county. The students’ proposed trail will teach its users about Maryland’s past contributions to the tobacco economy, its rural communities during reconstruction, and the need for more recreational opportunities for African Americans during segregation. The completed product provides a cohesive and navigable narrative of life and culture in the area and promotes economic growth through heritage tourism in each of the three communities. 

  • Student Team Members: Sara Baum, Grace Davenport, Amy Duan, Josette Graham, Kathleen Jockel, Veronica Martin, Tamara Schlossenberg, Hassan Tariq

A Framework for Preservation and Growth in Creswell 

(University of Maryland, College Park) This project was the product of a graduate planning course at the University of Maryland in spring 2019. Seven graduate planning students worked in collaboration with Harford County, Maryland to develop, model, and analyze alternative futures for Creswell, a rural community adjacent to Harford County’s Development Envelope and the I-95 corridor.  

  • Student Team Members: Bilal Ali, Sarah Latimer, Nick MacKereth, Kari Nye, Russ Ottalini, Jerah Smith, AnnaLinden Weller

Long Life for Long Branch: Tools to Preserve Independent Retailers 

(University of Maryland, College Park) Through a collaboration with the Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS) at the National Center for Smart Growth, the M-NCPPC Montgomery County Planning Department commissioned this report from students in the Master of Community Planning program at the University of Maryland. Long Life for Long Branch: Tools to Preserve Independent Retailers is a toolkit that proposes a series of tactics which promote social equity and ensure that existing independent businesses in Long Branch, many of them minority-owned, can thrive along with new Metro Purple Line Transit-oriented Development (TOD). Building upon previous studies and ongoing community and county-led efforts, the course focused on an inclusive economic development strategy that would make use of zoning, financing, technical support, and real estate development to support the sustainability of Long Branch businesses into the future. 

  • Student Team Members: Carrie Anderson-Watters, Anna Brinley, Will Duggan, Ellen Kortesoja, Lily Murnen, Kari Nye

The final projects and presentations are posted on the commission’s webpage, and the students will be invited to present at other planning events and conferences in Maryland in 2020. To learn more about the Sustainable Growth Challenge and how Maryland college and university students can get involved, contact Joe Griffiths at or 410-767-4553.

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