Students green upa plan

Prototypes created may help revise development plans for a rural area

by Andy Poon staff writer

A group of landscape Architecture students may play an important role in the incorporation of open space planning in a new hillside community in Maple Ridge.

Seventeen second-year graduate students in the School of Landscape Architecture presented their suggestions for the location and design of open space in and around Silver Valley--a 650-hectare area in Maple Ridge that will eventually house between 3,500 to 5,000 new residential units--to the city council earlier this year. The valley borders UBC's Malcolm Knapp Research Forest.

The students were invited to help foster the research forest's participation in the planning for more sustainable and compatible development in the region.

They inventoried and mapped the entire area with a Geographic Information System (GIS) during a seven-week studio course taught by Assoc. Prof. Stephen Sheppard, who holds appointments in both Landscape Architecture and Forest Resources Management.

The students explored how best to blend residential development into the area, with special attention to five open space themes: visual quality, ecology, recreation, the working landscape of forests and farms, and a sustainable greener community.

"I think the students' major contribution is that now we've established a precedent in the community for more serious consideration of multiple open space values. The students demonstrated to the people of Maple Ridge that there are attractive alternatives to development `as usual,' " says Sheppard.

"What we did was to look at the water and open space networks first and then fit the housing developments into it in a way that links people, ecology and even economics," says Scott Murdoch, a Master of Landscape Architecture student who participated in the project.

"It is definitely a richer and more inclusive process of planning than the developers and council members have typically used," says Sheppard.

"The project has also raised public understanding of the UBC Research Forest as a community partner with special needs and responsibilities for education and research, and as the last forest on the edge of the Vancouver region that has active logging used for educational purposes."