Dec. 8, 2008

City and regional planning students win 'Outstanding Student Project' award

A strategic conservation plan created by a graduate class in the Cornell Department of City and Regional Planning received the 2008 Outstanding Student Project Award from the Upstate New York Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA) Oct. 9.

Nine graduate students in the CRP 689.09 fall 2007 workshop course, taught by visiting lecturer Ole Amundsen III, completed the plan for the Genesee Land Trust (GLT). The client-based interdisciplinary workshop course takes graduate students into the field to perform real-world planning projects, while offering technical planning assistance to government agencies and nonprofit organizations.

The nonprofit GLT works to preserve and protect land in the greater Rochester area and surrounding counties. GLT was looking for ways to focus its conservation efforts on the land and landscapes that best match its mission and have the highest resource value. The greater Rochester region is an example of "sprawl without growth," an upstate New York land use phenomenon.

The Cornell team researched the history, demographics and natural resources of the region, developed a comprehensive scenic resource inventory to use in conjunction with a natural resource inventory and developed a series of computer-aided GIS mapping models to help GLT decision makers evaluate the merits of conservation projects.

The Cornell team also identified methods for measuring the success of the planning initiative and made recommendations on financing options. The team members drew upon their backgrounds in planning, landscape architecture, architecture and public policy to help the client.

"I thought that the work was excellent," said Gay Mills, GLT executive director. "The students were great, and it was a pleasure to work with them. The plan is being utilized; it has given us a valuable toolkit that is making our conservation initiatives more effective. So it's really doing what we hoped it would do."

Amundsen, who is a member of the Cornell Institute for Computational Sustainability team that recently won a $10 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, said that "the work that the students did for the Genesee Land Trust is exactly the type of real-world problem-solving that attracted faculty interest from Computing and Information Science and piqued the interest of the NSF in the direct application of basic research."

The workshop was funded in part by the New York State Conservation Partnership Program, administered by the Land Trust Alliance Northeast Program with support from the state of New York.