Ambrose Landscapes saves water with Latin American stonework

Rafael Moreno-Baron and Steve Ambrose
FLOWING TOGETHER: Rafael Moreno-Baron, left, and Steve Ambrose, right, use ancient stonework technology to manage water on modern landscapes. Photo by Lisa Soledad Almaraz

Steve Ambrose recalls when his friend and business partner Rafael Moreno-Baron first introduced him to Latin American stonework, a skill that has been passed through his family for generations.

“These Mexican American families and native peoples who have passed down stoneworking — the running joke in stoneworking is that it takes at least 10 years to be good at natural stone,” Ambrose says.

This ancient technology, Ambrose says, has been used throughout history to build walls, pyramids, canals and other structures. Today, Ambrose and Moreno-Baron work together at Ambrose Landscapes to use those same skills for stormwater management, rainwater capture and soil erosion control.

“Rain barrels don’t catch much, but you can do an open-ground dry stream with stone and a creek bed,” Ambrose explains. “It will last forever, and you can build it with stuff you found onsite.”

And while the environmental benefits are clear, Ambrose says his main ambition when working with Moreno-Baron and his family is to keep the tradition alive and help others develop an appreciation for the craft.

“There is a way to pull off beauty and execution and really have the people be elevated to the respect of the craftsmen and artists that they are,” Ambrose says. “It’s really not only technical knowledge; there’s a great art to it. It takes a long, long time to get that touch.”

Editor’s note: As part of our monthlong celebration of this region’s commitment to sustainable ways of living and working in community, Xpress is highlighting some of those who are making a difference by taking action on a variety of creative and inspiring initiatives.

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