Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning students want to help communities make safe, smart choices about play areas in Southwest Detroit.
To commemorate Earth Day, graduate students from the Urban and Regional Planning program are volunteering their time to work with Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision (SDEV) and other community-based organizations to consolidate several brownfield maps with recent soil tests into one map. SDEV is a non-profit organization that works with residents, community organizations, agencies, businesses and industry to improve environmental conditions in Southwest Detroit.
Using the new map, students will visit each site, assess whether fencing secures the property and search for signs of informal use. After this field assessment, the students will help SDEV prioritize sites for signage and fencing repairs.
Children often play in brownfields, vacant industrial or commercial sites contaminated by concentrations of hazardous waste in the soils, which are not safe or authorized non-commercial activity.
The brownfield areas, which may have fences around them designed to keep area residents out, are inviting large vacant lots where Southwest Detroit children play sports and congregate. Some of the recommendations prioritized for these areas include repaired fencing, updated signage or signage posted in Spanish for area residents.
Larissa Larsen, assistant professor of urban and regional planning and project advisor, views the project as a means for students to leverage their expertise for environmental and community gain.
The students created a Geographic Information System layer to identify and document target areas by contacting various groups in the area with knowledge of the neighborhood. A team of 20 students visited the sites to make the final recommendations.
The project is organized by Taubman College’s Urban Planning Student Association with oversight by Larsen. Approximately 100 student-volunteer hours made the project possible. For more information about the Master of Urban Planning program, go to www.taubmancollege.umich.edu/planning.
Carrie Stefanski, right, marketing communications specialist, Information & Technology Services, on roller derby action: “I was able to get up quickly and rush to the front of the pack and knock down the opposing jammer. It was very satisfying.”