February 9, 2012

Students Redesign Ithaca Creek Trail

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The Downtown Ithaca Alliance and the Collegetown Neighborhood Council have enlisted DesignConnect, a student organization, to work on Ithaca-area design and urban planning projects this semester. Students are slated to be at the forefront of planning expansions to the Six Mile Creek walk.

DesignConnect — which aims to give volunteers “real-world” work experience and to use design to create a positive social change — was founded by two Cornell landscape architects in spring 2008, according to a University press release. The organization is comprised of between 40 and 50 undergraduate, graduate and Ph.D. students who lend their services within a 90-mile radius of Ithaca.

Although the majority of DesignConnect volunteers are students in the departments of landscape architecture, city and regional planning, and architecture, students from all academic backgrounds are encouraged to join and become a part of the collaborative team, according to Gilad Meron ’12, co-chair of DesignConnect.

“One of the key components of DesignConnect is multidisciplinary work,” Meron said. “In order to solve real world problems, we need people with many different perspectives.”

A team of volunteer students from DesignConnect began working on the Six Mile Creek project early in fall 2011. According to the organization’s website, the students are currently conducting research on what the trail expansion will look like, as well as delivering design recommendations, preliminary plans and a historical overview of the creek to the Downtown Ithaca Alliance.

Gary Ferguson, director of the DIA, said the organization’s partnership with DesignConnect will help bring attention to the organization’s proposed expansion of the Six Mile Creek walk.

“Working with DesignConnect is a great opportunity to help give this project a little more exposure and raise its visibility in the community so that we can go after funding for it in the future,” Ferguson said.

The redesign of the Six Mile Creek walk is also expected to promote Ithaca’s natural beauty, encourage sustainable lifestyles and boost tourism in Ithaca’s downtown area, according to Meron.

Joe McMahon, chair of Ithaca’s Natural Areas Commission, said the expansion will create more opportunities for pedestrians to walk through the area on foot. However, he also expressed concern about the cost of building bridges in the creek, a potential part of the project.

“Connecting the creek to downtown is going to be a huge project and really expensive because [the bridges] will have to cross the creek at least three times,” McMahon said. “It is a wide creek prone to high water levels. They will not be cheap bridges.”

In Collegetown, members of the Collegetown Neighborhood Council have also asked DesignConnect to aid in their efforts to bring a grocery store to College Avenue, according to a University press release. Students in DesignConnect will evaluate the area, determine the community’s needs and help create preliminary designs for the store.

Students in DesignConnect hope they will not only be able to involve themselves in urban planning but also use their skills to benefit the community.

“There is a movement in the design industry to help people,” Meron said. “Design can be used as a tool to help communities.”

Original Author: Danielle Sochaczevski