Hi, my name is Kristi Lin and I had the opportunity to serve as a Designing the Parks intern at the Olmsted Center in 2015. Last month, I graduated with my Bachelor’s of Science in Landscape Architecture from the University of California Davis and a few people at the OCLP asked me to blog about what I’ve been up to. Looking back, I don’t think I knew how much the skills and experiences I gained at the Olmsted Center would propel my later studies, internships, and community work. Here are some highlights:
1.During my DTP internship, I helped inventory cultural landscape features at Acadia National Park and Boston Harbor Islands National Park.
Recently, I had the opportunity to apply those skills through expanding the historic resources inventory for Locke, the last remaining rural Chinatown, and Walnut Grove, one of the last remaining rural Japantowns in the United States! In 2016, I attended the Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in Historic Preservation national forum on a NPS student scholarship and learned about the interesting history of these towns. Built and inhabited by Chinese and Japanese farm workers who immigrated prior to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the Immigration Act of 1924, the towns were once bustling with ethnic schools, markets, and community organizations. In addition, Locke was built by Chinese who left Walnut Grove due to tensions with the Japanese over national politics and farming competition. The towns are just 0.5 miles away from each other and largely intact. Whereas most historic sites focus on one culture, I truly believe Walnut Grove and Locke are unique because they can teach us about inter-ethnic relations and immigration issues today.
Fascinated, I created a summer internship for myself with the California Delta Protection Commission, which is working on creating a National Heritage Area including Locke and Walnut Grove. During my internship, I expanded their historic resources inventory and researched the feasibility of an interpretive trail from Walnut Grove to Locke. It was a privilege to work on this project and the Olmsted Center gave me the skills to make a difference.
2. At the Olmsted Center, I also got to observe different visitor engagement programs such as the Black Heritage Trail at Boston African American National Historic Site and volunteer farming days at Martin Van Buren National Historic Site.
These experiences helped me build the Manzanar Ambassadors program, which brings college students to Manzanar National Historic Site. Manzanar is one of ten incarceration camps where all persons of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast, citizen and non-citizen, were imprisoned during WWII without trial. My Japanese American grandparents were among the 120,000 incarcerees and it really wasn’t until I had the chance to walk in their footsteps at Manzanar that I realized my duty to prevent history from repeating itself.
Since my internship at the Olmsted Center, I have been working with my local chapters of the Japanese American Citizens League and the Council on American Islamic Relations to recruit and mentor Japanese American and Muslim and Arab American students for the Manzanar Ambassadors program. In the program, the students travel together with former Japanese American incarcerees to Manzanar and then spend the next year doing community outreach. I expanded the program from 1 student to 5 students and we’ve been able to organize panel discussions at UC Davis about the Japanese incarceration. The inter-generational and cross-cultural friendships that have grown out of this program reaffirm to me the power of National Parks to bring diverse people together.
3. Lastly, I learned at the Olmsted Center that historic preservation and design are far from exclusive. Rather, design solutions drawing from regional and historical context can maintain a sense of place and introduce new programmatic opportunities.
At UC Davis, I won a contest among my 30 landscape architecture classmates to design a master plan for the landscape architecture building’s courtyard. Honoring the history of UC Davis as an “ag school,” I used an agricultural grid to create student lab plots connected by a sinuous path like the nearby Sacramento River. The plan has been implemented permanently and now serves as an outdoor classroom!
It has been incredibly fulfilling to be able to use the skills I learned at the Olmsted Center to raise awareness about Asian and Pacific Islander American history and bring diverse people together. Next week, I will be starting an internship at The Cultural Landscape Foundation in Washington, D.C. where I hope to deepen my understanding of ways to use cultural landscapes to promote social justice. To the Olmsted Center, thank you for giving me tools to make a difference. To the current DTP interns, enjoy your summer and I would love to chat if you have time!