by Theresa Sprague
I attended my first ELA conference shortly after finishing my master’s degree at the Conway school. As a newly minted grad I had a lot of big ideas, but not a lot of confidence in what to do with them. The first sessions I attended at the conference were presented by the authors of a newly released book: Integrated Landscaping: Following Nature’s Lead. To say a spark was ignited, a flame was fanned, is an understatement. Here I found myself absorbing the knowledge and experience of these talented authors while surrounded by like-minded landscape professionals who were actually practicing this kind of land management, this kind of design!
I knew after that conference where my big ideas could take me and which group had and could continue to inspire and educate me throughout my journey. I have not missed an ELA conference since. When the opportunity to join the Board of Directors was presented to me, I jumped, wanting to find a way to serve this organization that had given me so much.
As I step into my new role as ELA’s President, following in the giant footsteps of Trevor Smith and those who came before him, I can’t help but look back at what has been accomplished over the last several years. Our executive director, Penny Lewis, is now full time. Our website has been overhauled to help serve our members and the public better. Our educational offerings have grown to include eco-tours, webinars, and our now annual seasons end summit. Our programs are being presented outside of the New England region, in places like Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania and the Brooklyn botanic Garden in New York. Our conference has continued to grow and with our new venue at UMass Amherst I’m excited to see where we can take it from here.
I am also looking forward to upcoming initiatives including strategic planning for our organization to help guide us through the next several years. Together, with the leadership of Penny and incoming Vice-president Toby wolf, along with the continued dedication of treasurer Michael Opton and secretary Maureen Sundberg, and our diverse and talented BOD and members, ELA will continue to grow, developing new educational opportunities and building upon those our previous leaders have helped create. As Trevor Smith pointed out in his remarks, ELA “operates on the cutting-edge, just over the horizon.” I am excited to continue this tradition through the next few years and beyond.