URI landscape design students develop plans for Richmond recreation center

Students to present ideas at public meeting Dec. 16

KINGSTON, R.I. – December 11, 2013 – Students in a University of Rhode Island landscape architecture design studio will present their ideas for turning a 47-acre parcel in Richmond into a multi-purpose recreation center at a public meeting Dec. 16. The event begins at 7 p.m. at Richmond Elementary School.

The presentation follows a public workshop in November at which the URI students solicited input from local residents. They also conducted an online survey seeking input on preferred recreation needs and presented preliminary plans to a jury of designers at URI.

“The idea is to create a place to encourage walking and biking and various recreation activities while also being a gathering place for the community,” said Will Green, URI professor of landscape architecture, who is advising the students. “The site is right next to Richmond Elementary School and across from the town hall and a public golf course, so it has the potential of being a unifying center for the town.”

The students were also tasked with incorporating sustainable practices and materials into their designs.

The site is a challenging one to develop, Green said. The property is narrow and has extensive wetlands, several easements, and has been disturbed by recent gravel mining.

Ideas suggested by the public were wide-ranging, from construction of a senior center and swimming pool to athletic fields, bike paths and an amphitheater. Based on these suggestions, the 15 students divided into three groups to develop master plans that will be presented at the Dec. 16 meeting.

“Our design is going to provide passive and active recreation designed for young and old alike,” said Amanda Gaal, a URI senior from Mansfield, Mass., whose group is recommending creation of a variety of recreational facilities as well as a community center, sculpture garden, and walkway that connects to the North-South Trail. “It will also incorporate sustainable practices that will benefit the town through reduced maintenance costs.”

“We’re trying to create a site that everyone in town will know about and want to go to,” said John Luca of Smithfield. “We want it to bring everyone together, and that’s something the town doesn’t have right now.”

While the students are excited to share their design ideas with the public, the project has also been a powerful learning experience.

“This is the first project we’ve worked on where we had a real client who we were working for,” Luca said. “We learned a lot from having to respond to their needs. It’s not what we want that is important in this project, it’s what the people of Richmond want that’s important.”

Added Brianna Cato of Cranston, “Richmond is our client, and we’re creating a vision of the future for them.”

Partnerships such as this are increasingly being established through the University’s Business Engagement Center to benefit local companies, communities and civic organizations.