Distributor:  Bullfrog Films
Length:  57 minutes
Date:  2003
Genre:  Expository
Language:  English
Grade level: 7-12, College, Adult
Color/BW:  Color
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Livable Landscapes

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How growth and sprawl affect the quality of life in New England, and some possible solutions.

Livable Landscapes

LIVABLE LANDSCAPES explores the connection between landscape and community in northern New England, focusing on how growth and sprawl affect quality of life.

By examining the history of land use and the changes that have hit working forests, farms, village centers and urban downtowns, the video looks at how communities have tried to preserve the qualities that make them unique.

LIVABLE LANDSCAPES explores five communities struggling with choices about transformations that are underway:

* Stratham, NH, in the fastest growing part of New Hampshire, where John Hutton is determined to farm despite waves of suburban development on land he once worked. Local citizens are responding by approving land-conserving subdivision designs and raising money to buy important open spaces.

* Burlington, VT, where citizens in Chittenden County have hotly debated the proposed Circumferential Highway for decades. Some argue that the new highway will solve traffic problems, but others claim it will contribute to sprawl in outlying rural areas.

* Littleton, NH, where merchants, local officials and activists have transformed a dying Main Street into a vibrant, attractive place to live, work and shop.

* Shoreham, VT, a rural area that for now is beyond the reach of sprawl. Local farmers are working to assure that their town will remain a farming community far into the future.

* Scarborough, ME, where developers and neighbors are working together to create a 'new' New England village, and in the process are rethinking the zoning rules that have made it nearly impossible to 'grow smart.'

'Livable Landscapes presents a problem and potential solutions that apply far beyond New England. This marvelous and unique film shows that we can create the future even if we can't predict it very well, and tells how. We must retain the working landscape while providing housing in 'rural' areas. The good news is that forests and farms can be compatible with 'development'. It just takes lots of thought and hard work. See it and think.' John Charles Gordon, Ph.D., Pinchot Professor Emeritus of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University

' Livable Landscapes captures the causes, costs, and consequences of the phenomenon of sprawl that is eating away the vitality of our communities and degrading our rural resources. Drawing on interviews with the top thinkers in the planning field, the film matches their insights and recommendations with excellent video shots that depict sprawl impacting Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire.' Representative Ted Koffmann, Maine State Legislature

'Does a solid job of presenting the community efforts to produce better land use.' Al Norman, Sprawl-Busters

'Livable Landscapes moves well beyond the basic sprawl vs. preservation debate...It opens our eyes to the limitless potential of pro-active, community based, land use planning [and] confirms that organized, dedicated, enthusiastic persons can work in concert to move mountains.' Stuart Lieberman, Esq., Partner, Lieberman and Blecher--specializing in environmental law

'A variety of interviews and great footage of the people and places affected add to the film's impact...recommended for provoking discussion in or out of the classroom.' Library Journal

'Skillfully, produced, Livable Landscapes provides a fresh and original examination of several aspects of the land-use challenges facing many communities across New England today, including residential sprawl produced by large-lot zoning codes, the hidden land-use impacts of highway expansion projects, strategies for revitalizing downtowns, and the opportunities offered through creative development strategies such as conservation design and the New Urbanism. This thought-provoking film could help illuminate the way ordinary people think about the choices their communities face in terms of managing inevitable growth and change.' Randall Arendt, Land Use Planner and Author of Rural by Design: Maintaining Small Town Character

'By studying several communities in Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire, Paly assesses and surveys how townspeople deal with the challenges of urban/suburban growth when their community's social and economic history has sprung from agrarian roots. Recommended.' Educational Media Reviews Online

'[Livable Landscapes] provocatively proposes that in our land development policies, as in so many other domains of modern life, many individual choices, each benign in its right, can cumulatively produce a collective outcome that, in the end, no one wants.' Science Books and Films


Bronze Plaque, Columbus International Film and Video Festival
Second Place in Category, EarthVision Environmental Film Festival
Vermont International Film Festival
Maine International Film Festival
Hazel Wolf Environmental Film Festival
The Conscientious Projector Film Festival
Brownfields Film Series
Montana CINE


Main credits

Paly, Melissa (Producer)
Paly, Melissa (Director)
Knoy, Laura (Narrator)

Other credits

Director of photography & editing by W.C. Rogers; music performed by Kent Allyn, Steve Schuch.

Distributor credits

Melissa Paly

Melissa Paly

A Production of Cross
Current Productions in collaboration with New Hampshire Public Television and SPNHF, produced in association with ITVS, with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Music by Steve Schuch and the Night Heron Consort.

Docuseek2 subjects

New England
Landscape Design
Government Policy
Suburban Studies
American (U.S.) Studies

Distributor subjects

Land Use
Local Economies
Urban Studies
Urban and Regional Planning


growth; sprawl; quality of life; landscape; community; northern New England; land use; Stratham NH; Burlington VT; circumferential highway; Littleton NH; main street; Shoreham VT; Scarborough ME; zoning; smart growth; "Livable Landscapes"; Bullfrog Films;

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