Ernie Wong


SCA 1974 North Cascades National Park

Landscape Architect | Chicago, IL

“I applied to SCA as an option to jail or death.”

Whether he was looking for trouble or it was seeking him, Ernie Wong encountered more than his share growing up in Chicago in the late 1960s and early ‘70s.  At age 15, his environmental teacher confronted him.  “He recommended I apply to SCA as an option to jail or death,” Ernie recalls.

Ernie lied on his application (he claimed to be 16, the minimum age at the time) and won placement on an SCA trail crew in the North Cascades.  Two years later, he was at it again, this time at Rocky Mountain National Park.  “Those two experiences,” Ernie says, “as well as rock climbing in boarding school, convinced me I wanted to be a park ranger.”  His instructors at Michigan State weren’t so sure.

“I started in Fisheries and Wildlife but soon discovered my science skills were not up to the task,” Ernie reveals  So he changed his major to Landscape Architecture and eventually earned a degree in Urban Design and Planning.  In 1990, Ernie opened his own firm, Site Design Group, Ltd., which quickly became known for its innovative and award-winning design concepts and service to an international client list.

“The majority of my professional work deals with the urban landscape,” Ernie notes.  “Transportation, urban parks, municipal sustainability and engagement with the public are all areas that our team encounters daily.”

Among other affiliations, Ernie is an active member of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Chicago Landmarks Commission and the SCA board of directors.   “SCA has impacted my life since I was 15,” he states.  “Both my sons, Justin and Jayson, are alumni of SCA.

“The challenges ahead for SCA are somewhat daunting with our changing environment, demographics and urban centers.  But we will rise to these challenges and impact thousands of future conservation leaders.  I’m sure of it.”

Hear Ernie profiled by WBEZ/Chicago Public Media.

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