On the Job: Landscape architect

Steve Saitta plans parks that please the planet
Thursday, March 20, 2008 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:43 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Steve Saitta’s (pronounced Say-tah) transportation to work, a muddy mountain bike, leans against a map-covered wall of his office. On the opposite wall is a photomontage of Saitta’s life: old school pictures of his two now-grown sons, postcards of Arizona and Wisconsin, pictures of his family on vacation and nature photography. For the past 34 years, Saitta has been helping Columbia residents through his work as a landscape architect and park planner for the city. With the weather warming up, people are spending more time outdoors in the playscapes he creates.­

Vox: What do you like most about your job?

Steve Saitta: My favorite part is being able to design and build facilities that are enjoyed by the public and add a great deal to the overall quality of the community.

Vox: Do you consider landscape architecture to be more artistic or technical in nature?

SS: It’s definitely more artistic expression and being able to get a sense of what people need and to provide that in an effective way that involves a high level of aesthetics.

Vox: How do you ensure your parks are eco-friendly?

SS: We have to look at what we do with watershed, the type of chemicals we use and how to reduce the amount (of chemicals). We consider how we mow and maintain the parks. We also consider where we plant trees and the types of trees and grasses we use.

Vox: How much indoor work does your job require?

SS: The kind of work we do involves a lot of planning, design, use of computers and technology. Once designed, that is when we begin the type of work that involves a lot of fieldwork.

Vox: What is a landscape architecture trend Columbia caught onto ahead of the curve?

SS: Columbia’s skate park. There was a problem with skating in the downtown area, so we decided we needed to do something. We had one of the first skate parks in Missouri.

Vox: What keeps you coming to work every day?

SS: One thing that has always appealed to me about the job is that you get to design improvements, and then you actually get to see them built and see how they function over time.

Vox: Why are you most proud of Cosmopolitan Park?

SS: It used to be the municipal airport, and we worked over the years to develop it into what it is today. It is the largest and most heavily used park (in Columbia). It also offers a wide variety of activities.

Vox: Do you get spring fever?

SS: Yeah, that’s why I ride the bike. I’m very active with the GetAbout Columbia program to help change how people get around. I try to ride my bike instead of driving my vehicle. When you’re on that bike, you really get to see things in a different light.

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