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Meet the Curbed Young Guns Semifinalists: Jason Lederer

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He may be the only person on the 2013 Young Guns semifinalist list with a degree in geology, but Jason Lederer, 33, isn't just about rocks and soil. The Arlington, Mass., native, who is now the director of projects at the Charles River Conservancy, is on a personal and professional quest to "better link people to urban spaces. and help better design urban spaces to suit the community's needs so they also interact well with the ecological landscape."

Motivated by the urban setting of Indianapolis, where he earned his master's degree in geology at Indiana University, Lederer "got really into the way geology interacts with the landscape, both the way it affects ecology, a central focus of mine, the natural environment, but also the built environment and the human environment." After grad school he returned to Boston, taught geology and landscape design at the Boston Architectural College for a few years, and then got into environmental consulting. At one point he linked up with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to assess projects and proposals. "Looking at how hundreds of different designers were doing different things and interacting with the lanscape, I became curious and wanted to get more involved with the design end of it as opposed to the review and permitting end of it," Lederer says. A gig consulting on the Cambridge watershed—the drinking water source is smack in the middle of the city, but the area also contains a golf course, off-leash dog park, walking trails, and so on—allowed him to use his science background to "work with the general public to design landscapes that were ecologically appropriate but also functional in terms of the human environment."

Lederer left consulting and joined the Charles River Conservancy in May 2012, where he routinely liaises with watershed associations, community groups, and state agencies, leading efforts to make the Boston area's public spaces—ranging from bike paths along the river to the river itself to a future skate park—safe and up-to-date, enjoyable, and ecologically sensitive. "What we do here is really we look at how we interact with the landscape in urban Boston and in Cambridge, looking at the Charles River parklands and the river itself," he says. Here's a closer look at what that means:


· Charles River Conservancy [official site]
· All Young Guns 2013 coverage [Curbed National]

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1. Swimmable Charles River Initiative

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Charles River
Boston, MA 02115

In mid July, in collaboration with the Department of Conservation and Recreation and other project partners, Lederer led the Conservancy’s efforts to plan, permit, and host the first public community swim in the Charles River in more than 50 years, easily finding takers for all 144 free tickets. "As I work to make the impossible a reality, I use science and management skills to design a solution," Lederer says. "This is certainly the case with swimming in the famously polluted Charles River. I use my ecological design, planning, and communication background to meet these obstacles head-on and work to overcome the impossible for the benefit of the urban environment and community."

2. Charles River Skate Park

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The Charles River Skate Park, scheduled to break ground in 2013, will be a universally accessible, “wheel-friendly” complex for skateboarders, BMX riders, and inline skaters, all sited on what was once mitigation land for the Big Dig. "We're making sure this project is appropriate both in the sense of the built enviornment, but also the ecological environment," he says of one of the Conservancy's major projects right now. Green elements include systems that promote the natural treatment of stormwater runoff, recycled and reclaimed building materials, and native landscaping; furthermore, the site has been developed to "ensure the ecological integrity of the adjacent Charles River," as Lederer puts it.

3. Paul Dudley White Bike Path

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Charles River Bike Path
Boston, MA 02115

Lederer has led the Conservancy's efforts to make pedestrian underpasses along the Charles a key component of Massachusetts' Accelerated Bridge Program, which aims to upgrade and restore structurally deficient bridges. "These bridge intersections fragment the Dr. Paul Dudley White Bike Path and force walkers, runners, skaters, and cyclists to cross dangerous traffic-congested intersections at grade," he says. Advocating for multi-use underpasses as part of these bridge renovations will "increase fluidity for all path users, encourage both commuting and recreational use of the parklands, improve access for wheelchair users, ensure safer cycling, and promote carbon-free modes of transportation."

4. Glacken Slope, Fresh Pond Reservation

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250 Fresh Pond Pkwy
Cambridge, MA 02138

Prior to joining the Conservancy, Lederer consulted on the Glacken Slope project at the Fresh Pond Reservation, an Olmsted Brothers park in Cambridge. "The focus," he says, "was to stabilize the slope in a manner that promoted ecological integrity while simultaneously supporting the diverse activities and community interests of the reservation users," such as golf and trails. "The project was considered a pilot and tested a variety of techniques that have since been used elsewhere on the reservation on similar projects," he says, explaining that they ultimately improved drainage, enhanced soil structure with compost, erosion and sediment control practices, and restored the natural habitat by managing invasive species and planting native ones.

5. Northern Strand Community Trail

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Also prior to joining the Conservancy, Lederer consulted on the Northern Strand Community Trail, a multi-use trail just north of Boston that will soon allow travel from Boston to the beaches of the north shore of Massachusetts by bike, skate, or foot along a car-free pathway. Linking up with the organization Bike to the Sea, Lederer assisted the program manager in the environmental planning and permitting for the stretch of the trail passing through Saugus, Mass., which included several sensitive coastal natural resource areas.

6. Mystic River Watershed Association

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20 Academy Street
Arlington, MA 02476

Another pre-Conservancy project: consulting for the Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA). In coordination with a graphic designer, Lederer worked to develop a trail map and activity guide for the Mystic River, which so happens to flow through Lederer's hometown of Arlington, Mass. He worked closely with MyRWA to ensure the information was comprehensive and accurate, including detailed description about routes and access points, trails, local history, and ecological and environmental attributes. Ultimately the map was published in English and Spanish, the two most commonly spoken languages in the densely populated watershed.

1. Swimmable Charles River Initiative

Charles River, Boston, MA 02115

In mid July, in collaboration with the Department of Conservation and Recreation and other project partners, Lederer led the Conservancy’s efforts to plan, permit, and host the first public community swim in the Charles River in more than 50 years, easily finding takers for all 144 free tickets. "As I work to make the impossible a reality, I use science and management skills to design a solution," Lederer says. "This is certainly the case with swimming in the famously polluted Charles River. I use my ecological design, planning, and communication background to meet these obstacles head-on and work to overcome the impossible for the benefit of the urban environment and community."

Charles River
Boston, MA 02115

2. Charles River Skate Park

Cambridge, MA

The Charles River Skate Park, scheduled to break ground in 2013, will be a universally accessible, “wheel-friendly” complex for skateboarders, BMX riders, and inline skaters, all sited on what was once mitigation land for the Big Dig. "We're making sure this project is appropriate both in the sense of the built enviornment, but also the ecological environment," he says of one of the Conservancy's major projects right now. Green elements include systems that promote the natural treatment of stormwater runoff, recycled and reclaimed building materials, and native landscaping; furthermore, the site has been developed to "ensure the ecological integrity of the adjacent Charles River," as Lederer puts it.

3. Paul Dudley White Bike Path

Charles River Bike Path, Boston, MA 02115

Lederer has led the Conservancy's efforts to make pedestrian underpasses along the Charles a key component of Massachusetts' Accelerated Bridge Program, which aims to upgrade and restore structurally deficient bridges. "These bridge intersections fragment the Dr. Paul Dudley White Bike Path and force walkers, runners, skaters, and cyclists to cross dangerous traffic-congested intersections at grade," he says. Advocating for multi-use underpasses as part of these bridge renovations will "increase fluidity for all path users, encourage both commuting and recreational use of the parklands, improve access for wheelchair users, ensure safer cycling, and promote carbon-free modes of transportation."

Charles River Bike Path
Boston, MA 02115

4. Glacken Slope, Fresh Pond Reservation

250 Fresh Pond Pkwy, Cambridge, MA 02138

Prior to joining the Conservancy, Lederer consulted on the Glacken Slope project at the Fresh Pond Reservation, an Olmsted Brothers park in Cambridge. "The focus," he says, "was to stabilize the slope in a manner that promoted ecological integrity while simultaneously supporting the diverse activities and community interests of the reservation users," such as golf and trails. "The project was considered a pilot and tested a variety of techniques that have since been used elsewhere on the reservation on similar projects," he says, explaining that they ultimately improved drainage, enhanced soil structure with compost, erosion and sediment control practices, and restored the natural habitat by managing invasive species and planting native ones.

250 Fresh Pond Pkwy
Cambridge, MA 02138

5. Northern Strand Community Trail

Malden, MA 02148

Also prior to joining the Conservancy, Lederer consulted on the Northern Strand Community Trail, a multi-use trail just north of Boston that will soon allow travel from Boston to the beaches of the north shore of Massachusetts by bike, skate, or foot along a car-free pathway. Linking up with the organization Bike to the Sea, Lederer assisted the program manager in the environmental planning and permitting for the stretch of the trail passing through Saugus, Mass., which included several sensitive coastal natural resource areas.

6. Mystic River Watershed Association

20 Academy Street, Arlington, MA 02476

Another pre-Conservancy project: consulting for the Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA). In coordination with a graphic designer, Lederer worked to develop a trail map and activity guide for the Mystic River, which so happens to flow through Lederer's hometown of Arlington, Mass. He worked closely with MyRWA to ensure the information was comprehensive and accurate, including detailed description about routes and access points, trails, local history, and ecological and environmental attributes. Ultimately the map was published in English and Spanish, the two most commonly spoken languages in the densely populated watershed.

20 Academy Street
Arlington, MA 02476