A diagram depicts a coastal oak preserve from the water, inland.
Coastal Oaks Preserve is located within one of the most biologically diverse estuaries in North America – the Indian River Lagoon. The Indian River Land Trust (IRLT), whose mission is to preserve, protect, and provide access to the Lagoon, collaborated with Dix.Hite + Partners to create a Vision Plan that celebrates the IRLT's mission through restoration, education, research, and experience.
Coastal Oaks Preserve lies within Indian River Lagoon, one of the most diverse estuaries in N. America. The IRLT collaborated with the landscape architect to create a plan to protect and provide access to the Lagoon.
The team performed site inventory and analysis to map areas most suited for preservation, restoration, or development. A stakeholder charrette and workshop provided further insight into the mission of the Preserve. As a result, a plan was developed around three key activities: enter, gather, and explore. The plan accommodates the needs of the IRLT while also protecting the sensitive ecosystems on-site by preserving and restoring the land, defining edges, providing space for research and education initiatives, and creating opportunities for users to engage with the site.
To lessen impact, existing roads will be re-purposed as trails and a canopy walk will float above the existing landscape to offer a unique perspective. Educational signage helps visitors better understand their surroundings. Accessible drop-in areas for paddle craft allow visitors to explore the site from the existing streams and waterways. A multi-functional structure will become a facility for existing education and research programs. The building is located in an already disturbed area to reduce impact and includes rainwater reuse systems, a solar panel roof, and composting waste facilities. The surrounding area will become an outdoor classroom with restored native plantings.
By restoring and protecting the sensitive ecosystems on site, this plan could help educate future generations, provide research opportunities, and rebuild damaged wildlife habitat for the diverse species on site. The Vision Plan has been approved by the IRLT Board of Directors and Dix.Hite is currently working through the construction documentation phase of the project.
A SWOT analysis revealed an abundance of strengths including a unique transect of ecosystem and habitat types, natural waterways and connections to the Lagoon, and existing roads and pathways.
The entry was designed to subtly identify the Preserve with low profile signage, a gated entry to control access and establish boundaries, and a restored meadow. The entry reuses an existing access road to reduce impact.
A series of trails reuse the existing roads to create opportunities for guided groups to explore while reducing impact to the land. A canopy walk floats above the existing landscape to offer unique perspectives.
A multi-functional structure will become a flexible facility for existing education and research programs. It is sited in an already disturbed area to reduce impact and offer opportunities for restoration.
by David Hoppes, PLA
Vice President, principal, and partner at Dix.Hite + Partners, David Hoppes has practiced Landscape Architecture in Florida for more than 25 years. David’s passion for landscape architecture can be boiled down to a simple idea: “creating great places for people to live, work and play.” David’s passion is seen clearly in an engaging public awareness tool that he helped create, called “What If.” The project helps local Orlando residents reimagine their public spaces and streets and helps them visualize alternative uses for the places they frequent. David earned his Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture from Purdue University, and is a Registered Landscape Architect in the State of Florida.
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