Kate Venturini ’06

Protect the Coastline: Use Native Plants

Rhode Island is blessed with a huge coastline, but that blessing can come with a host of problems when it comes to people living on the waterfront. Kate Venturini ’06, a graduate of the Landscape Architecture Department currently working towards her Master’s degree in Marine Affairs, is trying to address these issues.

Venturini’s main interest is landscape restoration, which covers a lot of territory including how people deal with invasive plants, use native vegetation, manage storm water, protect water quality, and still have an aesthetically pleasing water view.

The challenge is not easy, especially when it comes to places like Greenwich Bay in Warwick that is composed of small residential lots. The rules of the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council, which has jurisdiction over the state’s coastline, simply don’t work well for small lot areas. For example, Venturini cites a regulation that states a half-acre lot has to have a 50-foot buffer, but in Greenwich Bay that buffer boundary “could end up in someone’s living room.”

So Venturini is busy writing a Native Plant Design Manual that will make more sense for areas like Greenwich Bay. The manual’s guidelines are less extensive but there are still requirements for handling storm water and using appropriate native plants.

In addition, she spends much of her week as an outreach agent for the College of the Environment and Life Sciences educating landscapers, developers, URI Master Gardeners, non-profit groups, and the general public.

When it comes to landscape restoration, Venturini says she is not only interested in aesthetics, habitat, storm water management, and resource protection but also in meeting the expectations of the home owner, the designer, and coastal officials. It’s a tall order considering the emotions that can arise when state regulations are applied to private property.

When her workday is done, Venturini relaxes by writing songs and performing with her Providence band, Royal Jelly.

—Rudi Hempe ’62