Student Work Revitalizes Cascade Community
By Sue McMurray
Recently, the community of Cascade, Idaho, has taken a stand to protect its heritage by engaging in a long-term learning practice collaborative between:
- University of Idaho Extension Horizons Program
- Building Sustainable Communities Initiative
- College of Natural Resources
- other University of Idaho colleges
Over the last year, graduate students in the Bioregional Planning and Community Design Program studio class collaborated with the Valley County Commission and Valley Adams Planning Partnership to develop a regional asset inventory and interactive mapping tool.
A team of three students designed and solicited community input to identify local historic, ecological, economic, social and other assets, which were then mapped in a GIS-database. This data was then loaded into an interactive web-mapping application where the public could not only learn about local assets, but also submit additions and amendments.
The goals of the project were to:
- inform local and outside residents about the Long Valley area surrounding Cascade
- encourage regional protection and development of heritage resources
To more efficiently host the interactive map, Valley County authorized its transfer to the Payette River National Scenic Byway Council. The Byway agreed to allocate funding for a new Web site that includes the interactive Web-based map developed by the students. The map will be monitored and updated to serve as a powerful communication tool for the area’s public.
“I think our experience of working with a community — four hours away, unable to contact people directly, and using technology we’re barely familiar with — was probably a lot more educational in terms of the ambiguous reality of working in the political arena,” said Ryan Urie, bioregional planning graduate student. “It was one long exercise in ambiguous expectations, changing plans and vague goals. In short, it was a lot like real life.
The other three students in the studio class developed a comprehensive plan guide and facilitated land use plans for central Cascade.
Although planning projects often take a decade to be implemented, the asset map is also now being locally implemented through an agreement between Valley County and the Payette River National Scenic Byway Council.
A beta version of the asset map can be viewed through the University of Idaho’s Bioregional Planning and Community Design Web site at http://www.bioregionalplanning.uidaho.edu/longvalley/.
Next fall, the program will be working in the Clearwater Basin with Horizons communities, the Clearwater Basin Collaborative and county or tribal government.
The Clearwater Basin Collaborative (CBC) has asked Sandra Pinel to present at its next meeting. She will explain how asset mapping could be done in that five-county area from Montana to Lewiston, in order to better connect conservation and rural economic development agendas and activities in the corridor. In preparation for this and other work with corridor agencies and local governments, BIOP students may intern with CBC to work with its economic development and recreation committees. Together, they develop pathways that could link cultural and natural assets in the rural communities within the basin.
Local partners included University Extension faculty, the Cascade Horizons committees, the local historic society, the regional economic development specialist and many residents who participated in interviews.
University faculty collaborators included Sandra Pinel, CNR assistant professor of conservation social sciences and bioregional planning and community design; Gary Austin, associate professor of landscape architecture; Barb Brody Bromley, extension faculty; and other faculty in the Building Sustainable Communities Initiative. Local partners included Frank Eld, Valley County commissioner and John Blaye, Valley County economic development specialist. Student contributors included Carmen Weber, Jase Brooks and Ellis Cucksey.
CNR faculty contribute to a cadre of 23 bioregional degree instructors across campus. CNR faculty Tamara Laninga and Sandra Pinel were hired specifically for their expertise in bioregional planning and community development. CNR Associate Dean for Outreach Steven Hollenhorst directs the University Building Sustainable Communities Initiative.