Meet the Team: Stevie Freeman-Montes, City of Sarasota
Meet the Team is a series of interviews featuring the various professionals on our project team – both in-front and behind-the-scenes – who regularly provide valuable input, countless design iterations, environmental surveys and much more. Without these talented individuals, we would not be where we are today in realizing the possibilities of The Bay Park.
Stevie has been part of The Bay’s environmental task force, representing the City of Sarasota. Prior to becoming the city’s Interim Economic Development General Manager, she served as the Sustainability Manager and has been involved with many projects promoting environmental sustainability within Sarasota. We interviewed Stevie to learn a bit more about her background, her love of nature and her hopes for The Bay.
Can you share a bit more about your background, experience and personal story?
“I moved to Sarasota from Oregon over five years ago to accept a position as the Sustainability Manager for the City of Sarasota and currently work as the Interim Economic Development Manager. I love this city and how it feels small when you run into people you know at the grocery store, yet large enough to have many cultural and recreational attractions within a short distance of each other. Before moving here I lived in Texas, Vermont and internationally in Micronesia for two years. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Zoology and Master’s Degree in Sustainable Development. I am passionate about how to look at projects and policies holistically, to ensure environmental, social and economic trade-offs are equally considered within large investments.”
What is your favorite park and your contribution or role in development? What were some important design elements and the biggest challenges you faced?
“Currently, my favorite parks are Myakka State Park and Sleeping Turtles Preserve North. In this phase of my life, I experience a lot through the eyes of my two children. They have been through a lot with COVID-19 closing schools since March and with their social options being severely impacted. We do our best, but we spend more time indoors than we used to. When we’ve gone to parks over the last few months, I love seeing their senses come to life and their imaginations sparked by the natural world. Growing up in Texas, my favorite park was Garner State Park. Each of these parks feature water, wild preserved land, and amenities for kids. I think The Bay’s location on the water, coupled with its efforts to create spaces for families and children to enjoy, will make it another memorable location for generations of Sarasotans.”
What excites you about The Bay Park design/plan, process, and team? What is your favorite and most rewarding part of the work?
“I’m excited about the long-term, generational impact of restoring coastal wetlands (including oysters and mangroves), treating stormwater with a nutrient barrier technology, installing pervious pavement and supporting renewable energy. I think as a city we will learn a lot from how these items are deployed and therefore not only will that work significantly improve this location, but many other places throughout the city as well as we replicate best practices.”
What specific features of The Bay’s Phase 1 are you and your kids most looking forward to experiencing?
“Although I’m looking forward to many of the elements of Phase 1, I’m most excited to use the new and improved Mangrove Walk with my family. After we do the walk, I can envision us using the kayak launch to explore the mangroves and reinforce what we learned through the interpretive signage along the walkway. I think it’s going to be a wonderful new location to explore, learn and relax together.”
Can you also share any other public parks that you have worked on?
“I worked on the City of Sarasota’s Living Seawall pilot and have supported the Living Shoreline project at Bayfront Park. I also provided input into our city’s Park Master Plan and continue to collaborate closely with our Parks & Recreation Department. Additionally, I led a project to create a detailed Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Plan which was approved unanimously by the Sarasota City Commission in 2018. The planning process identified locations, including public lands, where we were vulnerable to future climate impacts and identified high-level solutions to increase resiliency.”