Sustainable Communities Partnership - Projects
2021-2022 Partners: Mt. Baker Ski Area, Northwest Avalanche Center, and the U.S. Forest Service Snow School
Snow School is a partnership among the Northwest Avalanche Center (NWAC), Mt. Baker Ski Area, Western Washington University (WWU)’s Living Snow Project (LSP), and WWU’s Sustainable Communities Partnership (SCP).
Snow School is a partnership among the Northwest Avalanche Center (NWAC), Mt. Baker Ski Area, Western Washington University (WWU)’s Living Snow Project (LSP), and WWU’s Sustainable Communities Partnership (SCP). Snow School is an outdoor, snowshoe-powered, winter learning adventure. Students learn that algae and black carbon (from wildfires) change the albedo of snow and ice, impacting melt rates, affecting regional watersheds, and impacting farming and fish. Middle- and high-school students, their teachers, and WWU’s “student instructors” engage in research and hands-on learning around themes of climate, weather, and watersheds. Snow School also encourages active and healthy lifestyles through winter recreation and fosters a sense of place and connection to community. SCP oversees student interns, assists in the field, and provides logistics and curriculum development. Over the next year, SCP will support Snow School to further enrich the curriculum and create a new WWU class that combines science, recreation, and outdoor management so that Snow School can operate as a yearly event with minimal oversight. encourages active and healthy lifestyles through winter recreation, and fosters a sense of place and connection to community.
2020-2021 Partners: Columbia Valley Park and Recreation District and Whatcom County
In the 2020/2021 academic year, we are partnering with the Columbia Valley Park and Recreation District and Whatcom County. Two courses and a WWU graduate student intern are engaging in efforts to address sustainability needs, as expressed by these partners, and climate action.
Columbia Valley Park and Recreation District (CVPRD)
CVPRD Comprehensive Park Plan
During the period of summer 2020-January 2021, Sustainable Communities Partnership (SCP) partnered with the Columbia Valley Park and Recreation District (CVPRD) in East Whatcom County. Through this partnership, students in Dr. Tammi Laninga’s fall quarter Community Development and Participatory Methods course (ENVS 475) conducted a (remote) public engagement campaign in Columbia Valley, and graduate student, Sarah Parker, worked with the CVPRD commissioners to compile a Comprehensive Park Plan. This partnership was supported by a grant from First Federal Community Foundation.
Building Climate Resilience through GMA Comprehensive Planning
During the 2020-21 academic year, Whatcom County partnered with SCP to support consistent and coordinated climate planning across jurisdictional boundaries within Whatcom County. This partnership, with staff support from the Port of Bellingham and the City of Bellingham, formed the collaborative Building Community Resilience Project (BCRP) to support Whatcom County Small Cities, including Blaine, Everson, Ferndale, Lynden, and Nooksack, in climate planning efforts. Specifically, students recommended climate change goals, policies, and objectives to be adopted into various elements of the Small Cities’ Growth Management Act (GMA) comprehensive plans. Throughout this project, SCP supported the participating jurisdictions by performing climate impact, mitigation and adaptation research, providing direct support to city staff, and drafting customized GMA policy proposals for each city.
2019-2020 Partners: City of Arlington and City of Bainbridge Island
Over the 2019-2020 academic year, SCP partnered with the city of Arlington and the city of Bainbridge Island. Six courses and two interns engaged in efforts to address sustainability needs expressed by these cities.
City of Arlington
Business and Housing Mix
In Dr. Tamara Laninga’s Community Development & Participatory Methods course, students identified the patterns and characteristics of cities comparable in size to Arlington that have a healthy business to housing ratio. A combination of case study research and a literature review was conducted, resulting in three recommendations for the city of Arlington to promote a continued healthy economy and accommodate future growth. The recommendation options are for low, moderate, and high change.
Centennial Trail Connections
Also in Dr. Tamara Laninga’s Community Development & Participatory Methods course (ENVS 475), students worked with the city of Arlington to explore ways to better connect the Centennial Trail with the businesses, services, and amenities that exist within Arlington’s historic downtown. Specifically, the team completed case studies and collected input from the public to develop conceptual designs and recommendations for how the City can integrate the trail into its downtown.
Downtown Master Plan, Studio I
Under the guidance of Dr. Barbara Coe, students worked to understand community vision and preferences for Arlington’s downtown through the facilitation of a couple of workshops. They while also used existing data, reports, and observation to understand existing conditions. The results of this initial work were used to inform the next phase of the project, which focuses on developing alternatives (ENVS 470, Fall 2019).
Downtown Master Plan, Studio II
The winter quarter urban planning studio course (ENVS 472), taught by Dr. Nicholas Zaferatos, incorporated urban planning principles into a series of planning alternatives to guide the development in Arlington’s Downton Corridor Plan. These include: vision for city center improvements through a community workshop; capacity for urban infill of underutilized parcels; architectural and built environment character study; city center public improvements; design guidelines; use of rights of ways and other public assets for human scale-oriented purposes; evaluation of traffic patterns, street, parking, biking, and pedestrian systems and improvements; enhancement opportunities for improved use and access to public spaces; and alternative recommendations for a city center land use subarea plan as an element of the Arlington Comprehensive Plan. Planning concepts reflect community visions, goals, and urban design principles, including Smart Growth, Sustainable Design / LEED ND, and other New Urbanism strategies.
Downtown Master Plan, Studio III
This project identified implementation strategies for design concepts developed in winter quarter. Working with community input and city staff guidance, student teams addressed the following strategies for implementing planning concepts for the Downtown Arlington Corridor: 1) regulatory reforms to support the area’s historic character and buildings, and enhance the sense of place, 2) public and private investment opportunities, 3) development incentives and opportunities, 4) infrastructure and mobility improvements, and 5) phased development plan.
Main Street America Application
This project was completed spring of 2020 by two senior planning student interns. As part of this project, Dr. Laninga and students worked with Downtown Arlington Business Association (DABA) to understand how to qualify to become a Main Street America Accredited Member. This report highlights insights gleaned through research and conversation that may inform next steps for becoming an Accredited Member.
City of Bainbridge Island
Methods and Baseline Data Collection
Over the summer and fall of 2019, several WWU interns worked under the guidance of Dr. Jenise Bauman and the City of Bainbridge Island to develop a recommended shoreline monitoring methodology and to collect a baseline set of data using these methods. City employees and volunteers can use the recommended methods to add to the baseline dataset in the future.
Students in a WWU biostatistics course taught by Dr. Robin Kodner performed statistical analyses on the baseline shoreline monitoring dataset. The City of Bainbridge Island can use the statistics and methods for analysis included in this report to monitor changes in the shoreline over time. (BIOL 340, Biometrics).
2018-2019 Partners: City of Bellingham, City of Ferndale, and City of Monroe
In the 2018-2019 academic year, SCP partnered with City of Bellingham, City of Ferndale, and City of Monroe. Six courses and two internships engaged in efforts to address sustainability needs expressed by these cities.
City of Bellingham
Whatcom County Disaster Preparedness Survey
The students in Dr. Rebekah Paci-Green’s Disaster Reduction and Emergency Planning Studio (ENVS 476, spring 2019) partnered with Whatcom County CERT volunteers to conduct door-to-door surveys of county residents, and then analyzed the responses.
City of Ferndale
Downtown Design Regulation Revision
The students in Dr. Tammi Laninga’s course, Land Use Regulations (ENVS 374, winter 2019), researched other jurisdictions’ downtown design regulations, compared those to Ferndale’s current code, and developed recommendations for code revisions.
City Center Urban Design Plan
Under the guidance of Dr. Nick Zaferatos (ENVS 472, winter 2019), students evaluated current conditions, community goals and policies, community preferences, infill development feasibility, and urban planning principles and practices, in order to develop a series of planning alternatives to guide the infill development in Ferndale’s city center.
Under the guidance of Dr. Tammi Laninga (ENVS 473, spring 2019), students worked to identify implementation strategies for design concepts developed in winter quarter’s urban planning studio course. This included regulatory reforms, development incentives, public and private investment opportunities, mobility improvement and implementation issues, and phased development plans.
City of Monroe
US 2 By-Pass Trail
Within Western’s Community Development and Participatory Methods course (ENVS 475, fall 2018), taught by Dr. Tammi Laninga, students completed conceptual trail design; multi-modal trail research; and public outreach, including hosting a public meeting and developing an interactive website.
Dr. Paul Stangl’s Transportation Systems and Planning course (ENVS 373, winter/spring 2019) students, as well as two students working on senior projects, completed field survey work and background research in order to 1) measure improvements to park accessibility for Monroe residents, 2) measure improvements in connectivity between complimentary land uses for pedestrians and bicyclists resulting from the US2 By-Pass trail project design, and 3) analyze pedestrian & bicycle network providing access to the trail project site.
Environmental Impact Assessment
In Dr. Tammi Laninga’s Environmental Impact Assessment course (ENVS 493), students prepared an impact assessment for the US 2 By-Pass Trail area. Special attention was directed toward assessing potentially adverse impacts to critical areas.
2017-2018 Partners: Skagit County and City of Stanwood
In the 2017-2018 academic year, SCP partnered with Skagit County and City of Stanwood. Eight courses and four internships engaged in efforts to address sustainability needs expressed by the city and county.
An intern worked with Dr. Robert Mitchell, a licensed hydrogeologist, to develop a rainwater catchment design template and guidance materials for homeowners. (fall, winter 2017/2018) Rainwater Catchment Design Template Report
The students in Dr. Tammi Laninga’s course, Land Use Regulations (ENVS 397J, winter 2018), researched other jurisdictions’ handling of setbacks for private roads and drafted changes to a county code.
Dr. Grace Wang worked with an intern to execute a public opinion survey designed to understand the true degree of support for various land use policy issues in the County.
This initiative is an effort to reduce water pollution that results in the closure of shellfish harvest in Samish Bay. In Assessment, Evaluation and Research in Environmental Education, a course taught by Dr. Gene Myers (ENVS 588, fall 2017), a student project team researched strategies for motivating and sustaining behavioral change to support this initiative.
By utilizing existing data and reaching out to landowners, an intern worked with Dr. Aquila Flower to identify the existence and location of septic systems around the county.
Students in Seth Vidana’s course, Campus Sustainability Planning Studio (ENVS 471, fall 2017), developed an outreach program and set of recommendations related to recycling in multi-family housing complexes, food waste reduction and/or reusing/recycling of nontraditional items like clothing.
Under the guidance of Dr. Nick Zaferatos and Dr. Tammi Laninga, students wrote a community plan for Edison. The plan is based on community concerns and current needs. (ENVS 470, fall 2018; ENVS 472 winter 2018; ENVS 47s spring 2018). Edison Community Plan Report
Students in Seth Vidana’s course, Campus Sustainability Planning Studio (ENVS 471, spring 2018), addressed the largest code enforcement issue in the county, collections of obsolete machinery, car parts, appliances, and more that accumulate in outdoor spaces. The students wrote a report that included approaches taken elsewhere, recommendations for Skagit County, and outreach materials for use.
City of Stanwood
A GIS intern collected and integrated data to develop a web-based data-visualization tool. This tool allows city staff and the general public to view data relevant for flood planning by parcel/structure.
The students in Dr. Rebekah Paci-Green’s Natural Hazards Planning course (ENVS 372, fall 2017) created a website that displays results of a “SafeGrowth Audit” that revealed discrepancies between Stanwood’s Growth Management Act Comprehensive Plan and its Hazard Mitigation Plan.
Under the direction of past SCP Coordinator, David Davidson, a field crew of students used surveyor’s instruments to measure the elevation of the ground floor of every building in West Stanwood. They gathered information about the size and type of each building’s foundation and performed some face-to-face interviews.
Using data collected by the student field crew, Western’s Center for Economic & Business Research collaborated with a local contractor to determine a rough cost estimate for flood proofing measures around the city. Stanwood Financial Study Report
Disaster Reduction and Emergency Planning Studio students (ENVS 476, spring 2018) prepared a written report that assembled all of the above work in a way deemed useful by City of Stanwood staff. The course is taught by Dr. Rebekah Paci-Green.
2016-2017 Partner: City of Edmonds
City of Edmonds
(ESCI 470, fall 2016) recommended methods by which Edmonds can minimize stormwater impacts upon the Edmonds Marsh.
(ENVS 471, fall 2016) researched the means by which Edmonds might best handle food waste and construction waste. Edmonds Campus Sustainability Planning Studio Report
(JOUR 440, fall 2016) helped Edmonds promote a downtown cultural/arts corridor.
(CSCI 491, fall 2016) developed a mobile app that attracts visitors to Edmonds and informs them of attractions and events.
(ESCI 453 & 454, winter & spring 2017) evaluated environmental risks associated with a land parcel that Edmonds might soon acquire.
(RECR 373, winter 2017) helped Edmonds chart a path toward participation in the “Playful City USA” program, which seeks to promote the health of our nation’s youth.