Planner Profile: Carl Eppich
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Meet Carl Eppich, Senior Transportation Planner at PACTS/GPCOG:
HOW MANY YEARS IN PLANNING PROFESSION?
Senior Transportation Planner at PACTS/GPCOG
TELL US ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND
I grew up in Southern New Hampshire near Exeter and spent a lot of time at my grandparent’s house in Maine in Port Clyde. Maine to me was a slower paced natural wonder. We would sail Penobscot Bay hitting remote coves and undeveloped islands all the way to Acadia. It was wild to me and somewhat is still. Growing up I spent a lot of time outside and developed a real appreciation for not just the natural environment, but also the human landscape. Why are farms and fields in one place up against forests, and villages, towns and cities along rivers or the ocean in others? I loved all kinds of places but also knew places I didn’t like such as the suburban highway strips and isolated subdivisions. I was also interested in how money and economics worked--how cities are economic engines. With these interests, in high school and college I focused my studies on civilization (politics and history), environmental studies, and economics ultimately majoring in environmental and resource economics.
WHAT LED YOU INTO PLANNING?
In the early 1990's while in college I worked in Portsmouth, NH and then Washington, DC for the League of Conservation Voters. Then I went to work in business development for a number of tech companies in the late 1990's. One of the companies had a CAD/GIS related product and my interest in human developments in towns and cities was awakened. The problem solving power of GIS led me to planning, and I held early positions with SMRPC and the Town of Kennebunk. At the same time in the early 2000's, I started taking classes at the Muskie School of Public Service and ultimately earned a master’s degree there. I have been at PACTS for 10 years now…time flies.
WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT PLANNING IN MAINE?
Maine is a complex place quite isolated and with frontier-like gepgraphically. That reality solidified a stead-fast cultural preference for “local control” which acts like a sea-anchor in the 21st Century. By that I mean we don’t really live in isolated municipalities anymore. We live regionally in a global world. This presents an interesting challenge with land use decisions still made at the local level that effect people from far beyond the borders of a city/town geography. The present and future is regional and that is why I chose to work at the regional level.
WHAT IS THE MOST REWARDING ASPECT OF YOUR WORK?
Working with people in many diverse communities, both urban and suburban/semi-rural, and working to improve their futures. In planning we work with very complicated issues that may be similar from place to place, project to project, but are always unique at the time and the place. We are not only facilitators of problem solving and data understanding, but also teachers who have to repeat the lessons over and over. It can be discouraging but I see progress now with 15+ years in the business.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR DREAM PROJECT – WHAT KIND OF PLANNING WORK WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE MORE INVOLVED WITH?
Planning and building a region-wide off-road separated bicycle “highway” network that connects people with our world class natural place. I also would like to do more to extend separated bicycle ways into urban areas, by trading car lanes for bikes and e-Bikes. It is a huge portion of the solution to avoiding motor vehicle congestion and addressing health issues including obesity. The Netherlands and Denmark have demonstrated and documented this reality.
WHAT IS YOUR NICHE OR MAIN EXPERTISE?
Working in Maine is an expertise all on its own! But seriously, being able to develop cost effective transportation projects and plans to finance them would be my niche. Unfortunately, most of this financing happens at the local municipal level, and there is not much innovation in thinking in this area--leveraging development projects for transportation improvements--although some communities are beginning to have more open minds.
This profile was originally published on October 26, 2017.