Laura Haake

Alum, 2008
Position: City Park Designer
Employer: United City of Yorkville

Laura's early years on a farm in northern Illinois created a special love and respect for the outdoors. "We had a corn, soybean and Christmas tree farm, but my parents were always showing me how to protect the environment. My Dad taught me about stream bank stabilization of the creek on our property. My Mom was an environmental educator at my elementary school. Perhaps its true when they say your parents are your best teachers, they sparked my interest in taking care of the land." Laura's family moved to the suburbs during Laura's high school years, increasing her desire to preserve open space and maximize green practices in existing developments. When she discovered Landscape Architecture while taking a class at Morton Arboretum, she knew that it would be her college career path. To her, it was the perfect combination of design and nature.

In 2002, Laura graduated with her Bachelor's in Landscape Architecture from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. During her coursework there she took many Horticulture classes and was actively involved in the Horticulture Club. Laura knew her interest was in public spaces and park design, and took a job with the Oswegoland Park District after graduation. The rapid growth rates and large natural areas the park district was acquiring through development sparked an interest in obtaining her Master of Science in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences.

The extramural program from the University of Illinois in NRES appeared to be the perfect fit. "I could continue to work full time in a career path I already enjoyed and could go to Graduate school. No other University offers a program like this." Halfway through her program, Laura took a new position with the United City of Yorkville as the City's first Park Designer. Her knowledge in natural areas proved to be an asset to the City, and expanded her position beyond just park design. Working in the Community Development Department, Laura still designs parks, including construction document and specification preparation and project management, but has expanded her position to include development evaluations. "All developments have to manage their stormwater on site, meaning a detention basin or retention pond is part of the site design. Disconnect between design and implementation occurs between plan submission and approval, developer installation, and basin upkeep." Laura has become the resource for plan and site evaluations on the condition of stormwater management areas, in addition to other natural areas such as woodlands and prairies that are to be designated as park sites.

With her new position, Laura elected to complete a research project on stormwater management for her degree. "Changes in Stormwater Management Techniques: Moving from Best Management Practices to Low Impact Development in Illinois" detailed the practice of using Best Management Practices to regulate stormwater, versus managing the stormwater on a site-by-site basis through Low Impact Development. She hopes her research will help to lead Yorkville, and eventually Illinois, in evaluating and using different methods to regulate stormwater runoff. Working for a municipality, she has learned that a greater impact can come from ordinance revisions and regulations to minimize stormwater runoff from each development. Her next step is to educate the City Council and Staff on reducing the impact of development on the environment through her graduate research.