KINGSTON, R.I. – August 31, 2020 – When the COVID-19 pandemic forced a change in the way classes were offered at the University of Rhode Island last spring, one much-anticipated class project in a landscape architecture course was shelved. But three students decided to tackle the project over the summer anyway, and they’ve come away with experience they anticipate will help them toward their goal of becoming landscape architects.
The students – Lindsey Corse of Cumberland, Rhode Island; Samantha Lopes of West Greenwich, Rhode Island; and Sarah McGraw of Queensbury, New York, all senior landscape architecture majors – collaborated on a feasibility study and design of a section of the East Coast Greenway in Freeport, Maine, one element of a bike path coordinated by the East Coast Greenway Alliance that will eventually extend from Maine to Florida.
“The part of the greenway that goes through Freeport is all on roads now, and the Alliance wanted to transfer it to off-road pathways,” said Lopes, an artist who enjoys drawing plants and landscapes. “They wanted us to analyze the topography, wetlands, soils and other elements and come up with a path they could build that’s safer for bikers and pedestrians.”
“What’s important about this segment is that Freeport is known for being the headquarters of L.L. Bean, and it has an outdoorsy reputation,” added Corse. “There are a lot of interested parties, and the trail would be mutually beneficial for the town and the local businesses to partner on. The trail will help them economically to bolster their image.”
The students divided up the assignment and held weekly virtual meetings. Each developed their own proposed trail route, complete with bridges over a stream, plantings, lighting and linkages to public transportation and other venues. They also had periodic conversations with the town engineer of Freeport and representatives of the East Coast Greenway Alliance.
“The hardest part was not being able to do an in-person assessment of the site,” McGraw said. “We had to figure it all out from online maps. It was particularly challenging not being able to see the condition of a nearby stream and how strong the water flows through the area.”
Upon completion of the project, the students made a formal presentation of their ideas and designs during a virtual meeting with Freeport and Alliance representatives, as well as to their professor and project advisor, Jane Buxton.
“I was pleasantly surprised with how well the presentation went,” said McGraw. “They were really interested in what we found and how we came up with the trail. It was nice to see that our work was appreciated that way.”
“The students did tremendous work and exceeded expectations,” said Kristine Keeney, New England coordinator of the East Coast Greenway Alliance. “The story map they created has provided the Alliance and the town of Freeport with very actionable information. This work is a big step forward toward realizing the construction of the first multi-use trail in the town and Freeport’s first section of completed East Coast Greenway.”
While the students’ part of the project is complete, they hope that the Alliance and the town of Freeport will move ahead with the project.
“We hope that some of the committee members will look at our findings, add some of their own analysis, and present it to funders and town council members,” Lopes said. “Then maybe they can get cost estimates, permitting and start construction. That would be great to see it really happen.”
“It was such a great experience,” said Corse, who is interested in designing therapy gardens for those with special needs. “One of the things I learned from it is that everything that we make is a complicated system, with so much going into the planning and design. I didn’t really think it was possible that we’d create something that could really be built someday. I’m surprised and pleased that it took off the way that it did.”