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National Collegiate Landscaping Competition returns after two-year hiatus

March 23, 2022 -  By
The National Association of Landscape Professionals' (NALP) National Collegiate Landscaping Competition (NCLC) returned in 2022 following a two-year hiatus. (Photo: LM Staff)

The National Association of Landscape Professionals’ (NALP) National Collegiate Landscaping Competition (NCLC) returned in 2022 following a two-year hiatus. (Photo: LM Staff)

The National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) 2022 National Collegiate Landscaping Competition (NCLC) was a return to form for what many in the green industry call their favorite event.

After two years away due to the pandemic — the NCLC was canceled in 2020 and virtual in 2021 — students and industry professionals rushed to the campus of North Carolina State University in Raleigh to kickstart the event.

“Everyone is so ready for this,” said Roger Phelps, corporate communications manager at Stihl. “This is an amazing event. Lifelong friendships have been built here. For me, it was like a family reunion walking back onto campus and seeing people that I met 20 years ago.”

Students at the NCLC competed in several events, including the irrigation troubleshooting event. (Photo: LM Staff)

Students at NCLC competed in several events, including irrigation troubleshooting. (Photo: LM Staff)

Phelps’ sentiment was a common one.

Bob Grover, NALP president, first attended the event in 1986 as an employee of Northwest Landscape Industries. Thirty-six years later, he delivered a speech at the event’s opening ceremonies as the association’s president.

For Grover, the event is all about innovation, hearing new perspectives and continuing to grow the industry.

“We’ve come a long way in my 40 years,” he said. “When I joined, it was all about pretty. Now it’s about environmental stewardship and bringing nature into the urban environment, processing water, sequestering carbon. It’s great to see that now we’re doing the good work.”

Grover, who owns Pacific Landscape Management in Portland, Ore., in addition to his NALP duties, knows full well the value of the event, with six former NCLC attendees on staff.

“I think it speaks to the value of the event that everyone gets something from it,” said Britt Wood, NALP CEO. “We get a lot of enthusiasm and excitement from being around a younger (crowd). But I think (the students) get a lot out of it too. They get exposed to some things they might not get exposed to at their programs, plus they get to meet contractors they may end up working for and their peers from other schools.”

The arboriculture techniques event was a crowd favorite. Students were tested on their ability to safely and quickly climb trees. (Photo: LM Staff)

The arboriculture techniques event was a crowd favorite. Students were tested on their ability to safely and quickly climb trees. (Photo: LM Staff)

The 2022 NCLC was the first collegiate competition in-person for Wood, who took over as NALP CEO in September 2019.

Much like Wood, many of the attendees were at NCLC for the first time. Less than 20 students had been to the competition before, according to NALP vice president of marketing and communications Lisa Stryker.

Overall, attendance at the event was down due to the ongoing pandemic. Usually, the event would draw upwards of 800 students. That number shrunk to 533 in 2022, but the association expects attendance to rebound next year.

Four-peat

For the fourth year in a row — not including 2021’s virtual competition — Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, took home the overall team title. BYU beat out Cuyahoga Community College, NC State and BYU, Idaho, for the top spot.

The event’s top overall student was Cuyahoga Community College’s, Peyton Musgrave. Musgrave participated in the arboriculture techniques, landscape plant installation, employee development and flower and foliage identification events.

On deck

Next up for the NCLC is Mississippi State University in 2023. The university last hosted the event in 2016, which marked the 40th anniversary of the NCLC at the site where it was founded.

Rob DiFranco

About the Author:

Rob DiFranco is Landscape Management's associate editor. A 2018 graduate of Kent State University, DiFranco holds a bachelor's degree in journalism. Prior to Landscape Management, DiFranco was a reporter for The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio.

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