Designer. Planner. Builder. Writer. Teacher. Landscape Architect Marita Roos has worn all of these hats and many more since she began in her role as Program Director with Neighborhood Design Center in 2016. After five years with NDC and a decades-long career helping increase community participation in the urban natural environment, Marita is stepping into retirement and embarking on the next chapter in her incredible journey.
Marita directs program activities at NDC’s Prince George’s County office and has worked on nearly 100 projects, ranging from designing streetscape improvements and rain garden design on Oxon Hill Rd to providing landscape design assistance for affordable housing developments. She has used her expertise to work on more than 30 Clean Up, Green Up and Growing Green with Pride projects--programs from the County Executive designed to promote DIY community greening, tree planting, and schoolyard improvements. In addition, she shares her expertise with the community through training and workshops.
Beyond the depth of skill, knowledge and experience that Marita brings to her role, she embodies NDC’s mission of supporting community-driven projects. She empowers residents to participate in designing neighborhoods that positively impact their lives, a quality that rings loud and clear through the praise from the community partners she has worked alongside.
Community Advocate Sharon Sims of Birchwood City/Clearview Manor has partnered with Marita over the last five years on multiple projects, including the Champion Tree Program, Growing Green with Pride, Right Tree Right Place (1101 Trees), and Prince George’s County’s Arbor Day. Marita was the project manager to enhance community entryways and create seven separate gardens throughout the community. “She was very pivotal in our community listening,” says Sharon, “talking with us and seeing what our vision would be and coming back to us with a selection of plants and trees that would thrive in our environment.”
Sharon also spoke of how Marita goes above and beyond to connect Birchwood City/Clearview Manor to additional resources. The community received designation as one of Maryland’s Sustainable Communities due in large part to Marita’s help in connecting them with the project and supporting them through the application process. “She [Marita] has brought so much to the table in our community in reference to expertise and opportunities and has truly been committed to this community,” Sharon says. “Anything that comes up that would support our community and vision, she always passes over to us and offers assistance.”
Jackie Goodall, North Brentwood Town Manager, who has also partnered with Marita for several projects, echoed Sharon’s sentiments. She spoke on Marita’s can-do spirit and shared that she never shies away from bringing her best to a challenging project. When Jackie’s plan to plant thousands of trees as part of a watershed project at Forest Heights Elementary “grew into a life of its own,” Marita was ready and willing to assist. “Marita showed up with all the students, and she just jumped in and began to give us her expertise, showing us what we could and could not do and what was the best.”
While she expressed excitement for Marita’s next chapter, she remained hesitant to believe that Marita’s retirement would mean the end of their work together. “I won’t accept it!” Sharon jokingly said.
Marita brings the same energy and effort she provides partners to her work internally, continuously elevating NDC’s mission and the work of her colleagues. Deepening efforts toward NDC’s mission of creating equitable neighborhoods, Marita was selected for the competitive Maryland Equity and Inclusion Leadership Program at the University of Baltimore, and brought the strength of that training back to apply to NDC practices. Her impact will continue to be visible not just through the projects she’s completed, but through the professional guidance she’s given to NDC staff.
“She’s one of the best,” said Landscape Design Program Manager Laura Robinson, who has worked on Marita’s team since she started with NDC in 2019. “In the design world, I’ve never experienced someone that can critique designs in such a kind and really helpful way. Getting critiques on work can often be a negative experience, but Marita offers help and advice with no ego. She’s always trying to help you grow in respect to your design work and your role with the organization.”
Nick Maletta, Green Infrastructure Project Manager, shared similar thoughts on Marita’s mentorship and leadership. Nick and Marita have worked on several projects together in the four years that he’s been with NDC, one of his favorite collaborations being a large project in Langley Park where he describes Marita as being “amazing to work with” in designing street trees and gardens for an important project for the county.
“Marita’s basically been a mentor for me since I’ve started at NDC,” says Nick. “She’s taken me under her wing and helped me to be where I am. One of the great things about Marita and a quality that most supervisors don’t have is that she listens and tries to understand your perspective...she’s always listening, always keeping an open mind to new perspectives and just trying to do what’s best for everybody.”
He continues: “I want to give her a big thank you for helping me grow in my career path. I don’t think I could have done it without her.”
Doing NDC’s work without Marita’s daily presence as a staff member will be a big adjustment for the team. Even as everyone wishes her well in her retirement, the staff and community partners will miss all that Marita has brought to NDC.
“Marita will be missed!” says Deputy Director Briony Hynson. “She is a beloved mentor and friend to our community partners and staff. Her depth of experience in the fields of Landscape Architecture and Planning, with a particular focus on environmental and social justice, has brought a wealth of knowledge to our organization over the last five years. We hope she won’t be a stranger, and will pop by for a project review and coffee, or volunteer on a project here and there as she moves into retirement.”
Congratulations, Marita, on your retirement. We wish you all the best on what the next chapter will bring!