Looking back on Geosynthetics in Land and Water, as the Magazine Ends

Land and Water Magazine

Clockwise from top left: Amy Dencklau, Martha Steinkamp, Angela Dougall, Shanna Egli, and Emily Jones (center)

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By Chris Kelsey – In mid-2006 I was providing freelance editorial services for Geosynthetica. At the time, the publication was owned by the geosynthetics engineering consultancy I-CORP International. The consultancy’s founder and president, Ian Peggs, encouraged me to write an article for Land and Water.

He was working on a story for Land and Water too. In discussion with Geosynthetica’s Director Elizabeth Peggs, we decided to begin a geosynthetics industry outreach program through which we’d write and offer articles to industry magazines.

Thus, the July/August 2006 issue of Land and Water included two pieces on geosynthetics. Ian Peggs’ wrote “Geomembrane Liners in Wastewater Treatment Ponds: Whales and Their Prevention” and Geosynthetica contributed “Common Ground: Beneficial Landfill End Uses Are Not As Far Off As Many Believe.”

This moment in my career stands out to me today as I’ve received the final issue of Land and Water. The publication has ended more than four decades of work in the field with its March/April 2017 issue (in which a version of this column has been published).

READ THE FINAL LAND AND WATER ISSUE (DIGITAL EDITION)

The cover of the issue poignantly notes “43 years of protecting the raindrop where it falls.”

GEOSYNTHETICS IN LAND AND WATER

In the years that followed that July/August 2006 issue, I had the good fortune to submit stories regularly, both under Geosynthetica’s name and as a ghostwriter for various geosynthetics industry companies. This endeavor allowed us to publish project stories and application information on a diverse range of topics:

  • Canal lining
  • History of geotextiles
  • New developments in geosynthetic clay liners
  • Wetland mitigation
  • Reinforcement applications
  • The growth and use of geotextile-geogrid composites
  • Water resource preservation
  • Green MSE walls
  • Fish hatchery rehabilitation
  • Gabions
  • Sustainability of geosynthetics
  • And many other topics

These stories appeared alongside articles on pond construction, creek restoration, sedimentation reduction, and so forth, articles which did not mention any geosynthetic materials. That first foray for me (July/August 2006) included, for example, stories on aquatic weed control, a comparison between blown straw and erosion control blankets, flood plain restoration, stripping overburden from a sand mine, and native seed project implementation. What the content mix emphasized (for us) was that geosynthetics were a strong part of the overall dialogue in cross-industry publications.

LAND AND WATER ENDS PUBLICATION

Publishing is a tough business, regardless of whether your business model is subscription or ad supported or if you are print or digital. A long run in publishing is not easy to achieve, but Land Water has certainly excelled. For more than 40 years, it has operated as a family-run publication.

The decision to end the publication with the retirement of Amy Dencklau (publisher) has not been an easy one for them, but it is one that engineering consultants and contractors know very well. In stepping away from a business, do you shutter all you’ve worked on? Or do you invest more and find a way to ensure that the business can continue to flourish?

There are no easy answers, especially when one is as personally invested in the business.

Over the years I have had regular correspondence with readers of Land and Water who saw a story I was involved with and wanted to know more, who shared a bit of additional perspective,  or who even wanted to contribute a piece to Geosynthetica now.

Geosynthetica certainly did not provide the first geosynthetics content in Land and Water’s pages, but  the opportunity to contribute so frequently drew the attention of many companies who previously focused their publications support in only a very narrow range of venues. They began to take part in Land and Water’s pages too.

While the outreach program that I was involved in was connected to that development, the real connection that made it possible was the one provided by Land and Water’s team.

A STRONG VOICE

For the years in which I contributed to the magazine, Amy Dencklau, Shanna Egli, and Emily Jones have provided much of the forward interaction with the geosynthetics field. They have built tremendous trust among the industry by being open to dialogue, for the value of dialogue itself.

At one point in the publications outreach program, I was part of more than 20 different stories in a single calendar year. These stories were published across roughly 12 venues, with a few receiving more than one in the year. Of all of those publications, I sat down face to face with only one of their teams: Land and Water’s.

The other magazines were scarcely involved in email communication, and when they attended conferences it was almost exclusively to have their sales team members hand out rate cards to every booth (if not to slag the value of all other publications in the process). Editorial was an afterthought for many of them.

With Land and Water, it felt much different. They were a team we all could know. We could speak to them in person at an event. We could call them. They responded to messages! They were interested in talking. They gave a damn.

I can’t stress enough how valuable that is.

I know that part of the (not-so-secret) secret is that the publication is a family publication, in the truest sense. It is a business that is more personal to them, and the care they take in it is evident in the voices they have published in the magazine. You can read the trust and interest in those contributions because those engineers, contractors, regulators, and other stakeholders understood who they were publishing with. They understood who they were writing for.

They felt a sense of ownership in the publication too.

The communities that interacted through Land and Water’s pages shared a voice. No single engineered material or system or subject matter had greater volume. We were all part of the larger story: how our collective work could build a better, cleaner world—not because that’s a great goal that we all (should) share, but because each of us had something to contribute.

How you select this material, how you monitor runoff, how you manage heavy equipment on your site…. Everyone was welcomed.

That strength of voice is the voice of the publication’s team. It is a voice they expressed and fostered within our diverse construction and engineering communities.

The geosynthetics field benefited tremendously by the open dialogue that Land and Water pushed. I’ve worked in geosynthetics for more than 16 years, all of them as an editor and writer. In all that time, no publication (outside of Geosynthetica, which I edit full time) provided me more feedback from its readership than Land and Water.

It takes a special publishing team to create that active exchange among its readers and contributors. Land and Water’s staff was engaged, they were interested. So were we.

THANK YOU, LAND AND WATER

I’m going to miss a lot about the magazine. I’m going to miss Ken’s editorials, which have always been marvelously tangential to the content in the issues. I’m going to miss Amy’s laughter at events. I’m going to miss the energetic and entertaining notes from Shanna and Emily, who so often shared personal anecdotes alongside the busyness of being a publishing business.

My friends, it has been a joy to work with you.

On behalf of the geosynthetics field, I want to say THANK YOU to the entire Land and Water team for the many years of support you’ve given us and for the support you’ve given to the larger civil and environmental community. Thank you for including our voices in your publication and for sharing the voices of so many other professionals with us.

Each of us has something valuable to contribute, and we all have so much we can learn from one another.

READ THE FINAL LAND AND WATER ISSUE (DIGITAL EDITION)

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