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Joplin: Landscapes of Resilience

As part of last Tuesday’s 2nd anniversary of the Joplin tornado, The TKF Foundation and Walmart announced awarded over half-a-million dollars to Drury University faculty and students for the Landscapes of Resilience Project.
Joplin: Landscapes of Resilience / Photo Credit Drury

As part of last Tuesday’s 2nd anniversary of the Joplin tornado, The TKF Foundation and Walmart announced awarded over half-a-million dollars to Drury University faculty and students for the Landscapes of Resilience Project. KSMU’s Shannon Bowers explains.

What was once the Cunningham House, an iconic building with large windows in Joplin, will now overlook four open nature spaces, as well as a memorial where you can read real stories of courage, survival and resilience during the storm that killed 161 people.

This Landscapes of Resilience Project is designed to help people heal from disasters by creating nature in unutilized land. The team will examine how planning and stewardship of open spaces can help communities and individuals recover from tragedy.

Over the next five years, Drury students will partner with the Great River Associate and Joplin Parks and Recreation to establish infrastructure that allows people to sit within nature and reconnect with themselves and the community. It will include water components and shaded seating areas, within four “scared spaces.”

Traci Sooter, of Drury’s School of Architecture, who’s heading the project with Dr. Nancy Chikaraishi, says that re-establishing outdoor space is something that is often left for last.

“We worked in Cunningham Park which was ground zero of the storm. I heard so many times when I spoke about that project publicly people come up to my publicly and say, ‘It was so nice to see Cunningham park green again it was so nice to see anything green again.’ It was such a relief. My children noticed it,” said Sooter.

The students hope to learn if nature does help people that have been struck by natural disasters. The idea began in the fall of 2011 when Drury’s architecture faculty and students designed and built a volunteer tribute featured on ABC’s Extreme Home Makeover: Home Edition.

Sooter says after the storm, there was debris everywhere. Then, through the cleanup process, the land is left looking barren and harsh. The project will add greenery and community spaces. The area will include many different attractions such as a butterfly garden.

“Hundreds of children made reports of seeing butterflies helping them during the storm. So because of all these stories we were inspired to create this butterfly garden in a circle to attract butterflies and be symbolic. Whatever that was that happened during the storm that these children are reporting,” said Sooter.

Another one of the features of the Landscapes of Resilience project are waterproof journals that will be located at all of the future seating areas. These writings will then be studied to see if nature really does help people recover and respond to tragedy. They will also be preserved and put on display inside the Cunningham House Joplin Overlook.

Until December, the project will focus efforts to helping Joplin, and in the years to come, they hope to expand their project to the victims of Hurricane Sandy in New York.

Has nature ever helped you through a hard time? Leave your comments and stories below.  

For KSMU News, I’m Shannon Bowers.