Tapping into the exploration of land use, government, economics and the environment, Hobart and William Smith students taking ENV 351, “Sustainable Community Development Methods & Tools,” have partnered with the Town of Canandaigua this spring to offer their advice and guidance on a pair of important sustainable community development projects.
Through the collaboration, students are focusing their efforts on a watershed management plan for Canandaigua’s Sucker Brook, and a pedestrian and bicycle plan for a mixed use district along Route 332. Working with the Canandaigua Citizens Implementation Committee (CIC), the students will help the Town meet aspects of its vision for sustainable development by providing analysis, planning, research, and producing design plans and drawings for the projects. ENV 351 is co-taught by Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies and Chair of Sustainable Community Development Robin Lewis and Jim Ochterski, the program manager of the Finger Lake Community Development Center at the HWS Finger Lakes Institute (FLI). The CIC centers its work on advancing the Town’s Comprehensive Plan.
“The student work with the Town of Canandaigua is far more than an academic exercise,” Ochterski says. “We are regarding the Town as our client, and the students are experiencing a true field learning opportunity. This requires each student to apply their insights on sustainability and develop professional skills like prioritization, making and keeping commitments, preparing concise and well-written materials, and investigating issues large and small that require both accuracy and pragmatic solutions.”
As one of the Colleges’ many service-learning courses, ENV 351 gives students the chance to work directly with community leaders and residents on projects that can have a real impact on people and places. To achieve that connection, ENV 351 students are taking several trips throughout the spring semester to the Town of Canandaigua to learn about the community’s intentions around development, aesthetics and quality of life. In doing so, the students get an in-depth look in areas of economic development, farmland protection, community flood resilience, transportation planning, public infrastructure and view shed planning.
Town of Canandaigua Director of Development Doug Finch says the Town is excited to work with HWS on the projects.
“While this is a unique collaboration, the timing is good as we have just completed a one year in depth study and analysis of the Town of Canandaigua’s 2011 Comprehensive Plan Update,” Finch says. “Working with the Citizens Implementation Committee, the Town is taking proactive steps to achieve the goals outlined in the plan which align closely with the work the students are conducting.”
In addition, Finch says the collaboration not only provides students with hands-on experience, but also gives residents an opportunity to get insights from the diverse educational and background experiences that the students bring to the table.
“The students work on both projects will have long lasting impacts on the future growth of the Town of Canandaigua in particular in the Mixed Use Overlay 1 district of the Town,” Finch says. “The MUO-1 is slated to become a robust multi-family area supported by a commercial corridor. The students work on Intermodal Transportation will help shape the future of the growing area, and severe as an example of how municipalities are able to work collaboratively with higher education to reach the planned future desired build out.”
This spring, Zach Reed ’15 and Jordan Mueller ’15 are serving as Teaching Colleagues for ENV 351 after previously completing the course. The focus of the previous class was centered on the East Lakeview Neighborhood located in the north end of Geneva.
Reed, an environmental studies major with minors in sustainable community development and anthropology, says the experiential education component of the course is unique compared to traditional classes.
“This service learning experience requires the students to engage with the community and go out first-hand to resolve the issues the Town of Canandaigua is facing,” Reed says. “I believe this type of service learning is the most beneficial way to learn material that is applicable to life after college. I was able to gain experience working with residents and community members, as well as developing skills that would accommodate their needs and wants.”
In late February, the ENV 351 students met with the CIC at the Canandaigua town offices for a meeting to discuss questions about the projects. Following that, the students presented their mid-semester findings to the Town during a meeting at FLI. On March 25, they also did field tours of the respective project sites.
The ENV 351 final presentation will be held during the first week in May, with the time and date to be announced. It will be a public meeting, hosted by the Finger Lakes Community Development Center at FLI and the Town of Canandaigua.
The ENV 351 students’ work on the sustainable community development projects recently was featured in a Daily Messenger article, “Students helping chart town of Canandaigua’s future course.”