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Students get involved with The Hofma Vision

Krystle Wagner • Jun 10, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Dog parks, water parks and a zipline are among some of the ideas Grand Haven students came up with for property recently acquired by Grand Haven Township.

Grand Haven Area Public Schools S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering, math) students have designed and built prototypes of what they would like to see in the 40-acre Wolfe property and 130-acre Witteveen farm recently added to the township’s Hofma Park and Preserve.

On June 14, the township will host community engagement sessions to gather input for the design work of the properties.

When the township approached the school district about it, S.T.E.M. teacher Alex Harsay said they thought it was a “great opportunity” for students to see the design process and give input while partnering with the township.

Harsay said he hopes the students will also participate in the community engagement meetings.

S.T.EM. teacher Andrew Ratke also created and shared lessons involving engineering standards for younger students.

When the township worked on updating its Master Plan in 2014, Township Community Development Director Stacey Fedewa said there was an emphasis to involve local youth. She said they worked with the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation’s Youth Action Council, and the group wrote a chapter of the Master Plan.

Fedewa said she got some ideas from the annual Michigan Association of Planning conference, which had several sessions about involving youth in projects. Fedewa said she knew the township would soon be owning the parkland, and she thought it would be a “perfect opportunity” to get the schools involved.

Fourth-grader Kaydee Young said sharing their opinions makes them feel valued and like they’re part of the community.

Lily Frendt, also 10, said it’s “awesome” students can share their ideas. She designed a three-level playground that includes monkey bars, a rope ladder, swing and big slide to keep children from getting bored.

Fourth-grader Addison Pike drew several ideas for what she would like to see at the park — a large tic-tac-toe board, a merry-go-round shaped like a fidget spinner, a space for hammocks in trees, a 3-foot-deep river, and a trail for horses. The 10-year-old also had an idea for a fenced-in dog park so owners could play with their off-leash dogs.

Maggie Sorrelle and Kate Hitsman envision a waterfall with natural steps and a seating area for visitors to enjoy. The 10-year-olds also incorporated a dog park with tunnels for four-legged friends to enjoy and a playground for children.

If some student ideas are incorporated into the parkland, Frendt said she would feel a greater sense of ownership and pride, and she would likely want to visit the areas.

Working with students has been “fantastic,” Fedewa said.

“Kids have such great imagination and view the world much differently than adults,” the township planning professional said. “They’re not encumbered by social contracts and they’re able to provide ideas and suggestions that adults wouldn’t think of. In addition, the students are one of the largest users of our park system, so it’s so important for them to like what we develop in the parks.”

By having students involved in the design process, Fedewa said they’re optimistic this opportunity will also get families involved in the community project.

The public is invited to attend the following community engagement events on Wednesday, June 14:

• 10-11 a.m.: Tour the Wolfe property with Nederveld consultants.

• 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.: Tour Witteveen farm with consultants.

• 2-4 p.m.: Nederveld consultants will lead an initial design workshop in the township’s boardroom.

• 6-8 p.m.: A final design workshop to form preliminary concepts.

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