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ISU landscape architecture students to share ideas for Colfax quarry redevelopment in March 11 presentation

March 10, 2015

LA 302 student presentations
LA 302 student presentations
LA 302 student presentations
LA 302 student presentations


AMES, Iowa — Students in an Iowa State University landscape architecture studio will present their ideas for transforming a former quarry in Colfax into a recreational area during a public review Wednesday, March 11, with Colfax residents in attendance.

The review will be from 1:10 to 5:20 p.m. in the lower level of the King Pavilion, located in the ISU College of Design building.

Thirty-one undergraduate and 10 graduate landscape architecture students in the LA 302: Ecological Design studio have been working with the Colfax Park and Recreation Auxiliary Board to generate site plan concepts for the 500-acre former Martin Marietta Sand and Gravel Quarry in Colfax.

Martin Marietta is transferring the quarry, which closed in 2013, to the City of Colfax to serve as the site of a new, large regional park. Colfax Auxiliary Park Board president Doug Garrett contacted the ISU landscape architecture department last May seeking assistance with preliminary design ideas to inform future planning efforts.

Carl Rogers, an associate professor of landscape architecture who often leads community outreach projects, thought it would be a valuable opportunity for students. He is teaching the spring studio with assistant professor Ben Shirtcliff and lecturer Scot Schuckert.

"The intersection of ecology and landscape architecture in this quarry reclamation project offers students a challenge to think more about the environment in order to improve the quality of life for all living systems," Rogers said. "It also presents the challenge of making the park a destination landscape with the hope of changing the economy of Colfax."

Collaboration and communication
Early in February, students in the studio visited the quarry site, which includes a 250-acre lake, and met with Colfax community members. They then worked in eight teams of five students each to begin designing a landscape master plan.

"The site was 500 acres, so even after dividing it amongst the group, it was still hard to communicate with everyone throughout the process," said Jake Oswald, a third-year student from Osceola.

Learning to communicate effectively with the community also has been a challenge, said third-year student Joe Biegger of Clive.

"We've been encouraged to think outside the box without a budget and a lot of community members only see dollar signs and that makes them hesitant," Biegger explained. Understanding and addressing residents' concerns is a big part of this kind of project, said Fangzhou Miao, a second-year graduate student from Hohhot, Inner Mongolia.

"Students always struggle with the size of the site and with getting their ideas out of their heads and communicating their intentions through drawings or models," Rogers said. "They have improved on this through the one-on-one interaction with community members."

The teams presented a preliminary site plan in Colfax on Feb. 23 and received feedback from about 60 community members.

"This project really gives us a different perspective. We usually present [our work] to professors and they have different ideas than community members, and that has made it really interesting," said second-year student Rachel Anderson, Omaha, Neb.

Garrett said the city has known the quarry would close eventually and he and park board colleagues have been discussing possible redevelopment of the site for years.

"However, we were still blown away by what the students have come up with and we are extremely interested in seeing how they have tweaked their original designs based on public input," he said.

Restoration and recreation
Since the initial presentation in Colfax, students have revised the group master plan and worked individually to design ecological design strategies in greater detail.

"Because this is an ecological studio, we are really focusing on connecting the design programs themselves to ecological functions," said third-year student Rose Tashjian, River Falls, Wis.

Tashjian's team is proposing a wildlife center that would incorporate lodging opportunities over time, including camping and eventually RV sites, along with educational programs for the public.

Biegger and Alex Robinson, also a third-year student from Clive, are working on a design that would extend Main Street in Colfax and incorporate a beach and wetland restoration to increase economic and recreational opportunities while achieving ecological benefits.

The final review will include presentations of the studio's completed master plans as well the students' individual design proposals.

"It is important to work on projects like this one because it applies principles of landscape architecture in real settings with real people. Landscape architecture has so much to do with the human experience," Rogers said.

"When students show their work to people living in the places we design, it creates a more meaningful and authentic learning experience."

Doug Garrett, Colfax Park and Recreation Auxiliary Board, (515) 250-8857
Carl Rogers, Landscape Architecture, (515) 294-2197,
Jaden Urbi, Design Communications,
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, (515) 294-9289,