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ANNA SMITH: Native east-coaster and environment enthusiast finds his niche in Bakersfield

I regularly reference and profile local businesses and professionals who are doing innovative things in the community. And these stories are not often told in a way that, altogether, celebrates their ingenuity and unique histories, the perseverance and creativity behind what they do.

I interviewed Scott Heilman - husband, father and division president of Landscape Development, Inc. We first met for coffee. We sat on the patio with hot drinks on one of those perfectly chilly fall mornings we’ve been enjoying a lot lately; where the sun is shining and the air is crisp and clear. I could feel Scott’s energy and excitement for his career and our community. Have you ever noticed how easy it is to talk with people who love what they do? The conversation just flows - questions are quickly answered with a grin.

Read on to learn why this native Baltimorean feels right at home in Bakersfield. Scott shares what he thinks about our city’s recent growth, how he combined his artistic side and love for the environment into his dream career and how his office recently handled the installation of some of the largest trees to ever be planted in Bakersfield, requiring a 120-ton crane!


Q: Since you’re not originally from Bakersfield, what brought you here?

A: I was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. In 2000, I earned my degree in Landscape Architecture from West Virginia University. Landscape Development, Inc. recruited me out of college and I relocated to Southern California to work at our corporate office in Valencia, California. In 2005, our company was growing tremendously and I had the opportunity to move to Bakersfield and help open our Central Valley Division. At the time, LDI was primarily focused on the design and construction of large master-planned communities. Some of the first projects I worked on in Bakersfield were Solera at Kern Canyon by Del Webb, K. Hovnanian’s Four Seasons and City In The Hills.

Q: What about the Bakersfield community do you like?

A: This city reminds me of the blue-collar Baltimoreans that I grew up with in Maryland. The people in Bakersfield are friendly, community minded, giving and are proud of their town. The restaurants, the downtown arts & culture scene and the close proximity to the mountains and ocean definitely make it an attractive place to live. Since I moved here, I have seen so much growth and there is still so much potential. I met my wife, Kari, in 2008, and we have really enjoyed raising our family in an affordable part of California.

Q: What would you tell someone moving to Bakersfield?

A: In addition to the reasons listed above, Bakersfield continues to grow, attract more young talent and is an exceptional place to network and do business.

Q: Do you enjoy what you do? How did you get into landscape design?

A: I absolutely love my job. As the division president for the Central Valley, I oversee our offices in Bakersfield and Clovis. Our company builds projects including parks and recreation areas, streetscapes, model homes, retail developments, industrial centers and multi-family complexes. Our office and field staff work hard to create outdoor environments for people to enjoy.

My uncle also graduated from WVU with a degree in landscape architecture and my sister is an architect. I was aware of the profession of landscape architecture at an early age, though there are no specific classes one can take in grade school. In high school, I studied fine arts, and was a member of the Green Club. When graduating high school, I knew that landscape architecture would be the best way to combine both my art talent and love for the environment. My 17-year career at LDI has focused on construction and project management.

Q: How does your business maintain its relevance and keep up with trends in landscape design, i.e., drought tolerant plants, recycled water, native species?

A: Landscape Development, Inc. has always been on the cutting edge of technology with its design specifications and construction practices. We stay current through continuing education, trade shows, attending conferences and meeting with sales representatives frequently to review the latest irrigation products and new plants available on the market. We partner with engineering firms and architects to make sure our designs and installations compliment their neighborhood configurations and buildings. Outdoor living is always in vogue in California with such a favorable climate. Commercial trends influence the residential market with the use of more rustic materials and enhanced lighting.

Q: How do you see landscapes changing in the future?

A: With the recent change in state regulations, there is an increase in low to moderate water use planting design and installation. Drought tolerant species are being used in mass plantings instead of grass. Lawns cannot make up more than 25 percent of a residences landscape area per state regulations. In the future, there will continue to be more reclaimed water used, as the municipalities put in the infrastructure to deliver non-potable systems throughout the state. Gray water systems will be introduced into more commercial and residential applications, when the technology becomes more affordable. Smart irrigation controllers that monitor the weather and evapotranspiration rates are the norm in almost all installations. Drip irrigation, organic fertigation continues to be used more frequently throughout the industry. New types of hybrid plants and dwarf varieties are being introduced in order to cut down on maintenance costs and save water.

Q: What inspires you about your work/career?

A: I love helping build new communities for LDI. Whether it’s a home, a park, or retail center, it is very rewarding to see the developments with which I have participated. Each project increases the quality of life for people in Bakersfield. LDI has raised the bar for landscapers and contractors. In order for a project to be successful and the landscape to thrive, it must be a perfect installation and we take great pride in our work. Landscape Development is passionate about the green industry. I am very lucky to work with an incredible team of office personnel and field staff.

Q: Your office recently completed a very large oak tree planting in the southwest. Tell me a little bit more about that. (This planting took place at the Woodbridge Pacific Group Community called Belcourt at Seven Oaks.)

A: Belcourt at Seven Oaks is a master-planned community at the corner of Buena Vista Road and White Lane. Jeff Eittreim, division manager for Woodbridge Pacific Group and his team are building something very special in the City of Bakersfield. It is evident by the design and level of amenities within the community. The landscape architecture for this project is being created by Summers/Murphy & Partners, Inc.

To date, LDI has installed miles of drip irrigation, planted hundreds of trees and thousands of shrubs along the Belcourt streetscapes. This past week, two large specimen Live Oak Trees were installed in the roundabouts. These trees were each 132” box in size, and are some of the largest to ever be planted in Bakersfield. With the loss of so many trees in the recent drought, it is nice to see the developer place such a high value on landscape, and the end product is gorgeous.


As Scott explained, “The tree planting went very smooth … but it always makes you a bit nervous when you have a $50,000 tree hanging in the air. We were able to have both oak trees planted in about six hours.”

Thanks, Scott! Bakersfield is lucky to have you.

Anna Smith writes a weekly column about downtown Bakersfield. She can be reached at

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