Urban Planning students help communities make safe, smart choices about play areas in Southwest Detroit to commemorate Earth Day

University of Michigan 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 on April 24, 2010, and 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. Repaired fencing, updated signage, or signage posted in Spanish for area residents will be some of the recommendations prioritized for these areas.

Until the areas are completely remediated and made safe for play, the safety measures recommended and updated by the urban planners is the next best step.

Faculty advisor on the project, Taubman College’s assistant professor of urban and regional planning and project advisor, Larissa Larsen, views the project as a means for students to leverage their expertise for environmental and community gain.

About the project:

The students created a Geographic Information System (GIS) 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 Assistant Professor Larissa Larsen. Approximately 100 student-volunteer hours made the project possible. Here is more information about the Master of Urban Planning program.

To read coverage about the brownfield assessment, click here.