Over the past month we have had the opportunity to celebrate Susan’s retirement after a long, successful career in the field of landscape architecture. With over three decades of experience, there was much to remember and celebrate!
After completing graduate school here in Denver, Susan met Steve Prokopiak and began working in residential community design. Designing communities included the opportunity to create open spaces, parks, streetscapes and connections, this experience opened doors for much of the work she did throughout her career. Soon after beginning this work, Susan met Scott Carlson and began working for the Carlson family in Thornton, who owned a significant amount of property ready to be developed into residential communities. For many years Susan and the Carlson family worked together to educate the city about the need for natural open space and reduction of large bluegrass parks in community planning. Through this work the combination of native and manicured areas became a design aesthetic that is still associated with Valerian designs.
In 1998 Susan connected with Lanae Raymond from Arapahoe County and later SEMSWA and the Parker Jordan Metropolitan District. It was the first time that Valerian had the opportunity to work on a large-scale project that wasn’t centered around community development, this opportunity would enrich her future professional development and design aesthetic. The project was a 75 acre Arapahoe County open space adjacent to Cherry Creek, now the Parker Jordan Open Space and Cherry Creek Eco Park. At the time the site was filled primarily with weeds, refuse and willows but the potential for improvement was unlimited. The space was designed to include a gathering area with services, regional and local trails, interpretative signage, nature play and water quality elements. Working closely with the Arapahoe County weed control specialist eradication of the weeds became a primary focus of the project. Over the next 20 years we continued to improve this space with the help of civil engineers, ecologists, Arapahoe County Open Spaces, and local businesses.
Most recently Susan has been working on the St. Charles Recreation Center and INDUSTRY RiNO Station. This has become a passion project for Susan and has evolved into a mentorship relationship with the Five Points Youth Ambassadors. This group of youth, each with their own unique connection to the St. Charles Place Park has worked with the design team to create a place that will continue to be relevant for this and future generations. The park invites all members of the community to enjoy the gathering spaces, inviting landscape and nature play areas for people of all ages. The project at St. Charles Place symbolizes not just a park, but a coming together of a diverse community with unique perspectives. Susan is excited to continue her involvement with the Five Points Youth Ambassadors after her retirement from Valerian. The group will continue to work with communities and organizations to incorporate multi-generational, hyper local insight into similar design opportunities!