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On Saturday morning, rather than sleeping in late, hundreds of college students were up and ready to hit the sidewalks of Springfield. They were part of a research project that is looking at the “user-friendliness” of our neighborhoods. KSMU’s Theresa Bettmann has the story.
[sound of cheers from the crowd]
Erupting from the glass doors of Plaster Student Union at MSU are hundreds of students and volunteers. On this sunny and cool Saturday morning, they emerge in bright green t-shirts energized and ready to begin their task. This “sea of green,” as organizers call them, are going out in teams to assess 11 Springfield neighborhoods. Angie Filbeck, neighborhood coordinator for the Healthy Living Alliance which heads this project, explains what these teams are looking for.
“Going out surveying our neighborhoods street by street. Getting information on what our neighborhoods are like right now. What are the conditions of our sidewalks and our streets— do we have bike lanes, do we have parks, do we have places to walk to? We want to find out how we can encourage people to get out of their houses, how they walk to destinations within their neighborhoods,” Filbeck says.
The Walkable Neighborhood Project includes several partners and is designed to find ways to improve Springfield communities. Filbeck says although Springfield still has a small-town feel in many ways, it continues to grow, and that it needs to re-think how its neighborhoods are designed.
“I’m so excited. Because of the turnout at MSU today means we can do more this year with this project. We’re just kicking the project off this year and gathering the data. In the spring we’re going to share that information with city and community leaders. And then hopefully next year we can do this all over again in new neighborhoods,” says Filbeck.
Before heading out into the field, MSU President Cliff Smart pumped up the crowd.
[sound: MSU President Smart addressing the students]
“Public affairs; it’s not something we say—it’s something we do. You all are doing all of those things today. You’re acting locally. You’re making a difference and you’re living public affairs.”
Up to 500 MSU students are collecting data for this project. Katherine Nordyke is the director of citizenship and service learning at MSU.
“Missouri State University made a commitment to the Healthy Living Alliance and the City of Springfield to be one of the partners for this project. This is a great opportunity because it provided a great project for our academic service learning students. They’re connecting their academic knowledge with a community partner either addressing social justice issues, or engaged in community based problem solving,” Nordyke says.
Nordyke says students from a wide range of studies are involved. She says the project touches nearly all academic disciplines.
Volunteers from Evangel University and High Street Baptist Church also joined in. The project will be ongoing as students continue to gather data throughout the school year.
For KSMU News I’m Theresa Bettmann.
Click here for a link to previous stories about the Walkability Project