Students collaborate with community to make Lewisburg a ‘river town’

Elizabeth Worthington, Assistant News Editor

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The Lewisburg River Town Team was created by the borough, the Lewisburg Neighborhoods Corporation, the Buffalo Valley Recreation Authority, the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership, and the Lewisburg Downtown Partnership.

The team’s goal is to “improve the community’s connection to the river, both physically and culturally,” Sam Pearson, the executive director of the Lewisburg Neighborhoods Corporation, said.

The four main areas of focus of the Lewisburg River Town Team are conservation, planning, connectivity, and events/awareness. The team is collaborating with University students from both environmental studies and marketing classes.

Students in a Markets, Innovation & Design (MIDE) class led by Assistant Professor of Management Seth Orsborn called Design Realization completed a class project in which they designed and constructed prototype models for additions to the Hufnagle Park area. Brian Auman, the landscape architect overseeing the Hufnagle Park/Bull Run Greenway Planning Project, visited the class last week to hear the students’ proposals and offer constructive criticism on their designs. He stressed the importance of “green design” and suggested using low-impact, locally available, and reusable materials. He also encouraged the students to make the area a “people place,” one that would attract people from all walks of life to gather together. 

Amanda Fazio ’16, Traci Eschbach ’16, and Meghan Reilly ’16 are enrolled in an environmental studies class titled Environmental Community Projects and teamed up with Pearson in a semester-long endeavor to plan the River Town Planning Charrette that took place on April 27. They also circulated the River Town Survey to assess community engagement with the river, conducted a focus group with community leaders, and participated in publicity and outreach. In their research, the students compared community priorities with University priorities and asked questions such as, “How can we make Lewisburg actually feel like a river town by making it more visually present?” The survey results revealed that people want more engagement with the river, but feel limited by a lack of access, time, and issues with water quality. Suggestions such as more access points, more walking trails, and dining areas on the river were presented.

Pearson also noted the limited access and engagement that currently exists between the river and the community; issues range from a lack of proper signage or crosswalks around the river to the more complex issues of sustainability and a lack of public acknowledgement of the river.

“We live in Lewisburg–in the Susquehanna River Watershed–in the Central Susquehanna Valley. Hopefully, this larger sense of belonging to a place is also part of many students’ experience of their time at Bucknell,” Pearson said.

“Bucknell students don’t always realize how incredible of a place Lewisburg is and how much the river is an asset to the community, so to have a course that allows us to reach out beyond the confines of our classroom and help connect the Bucknell community and Lewisburg community to the river is a big deal,” Fazio said. “The lack of community connection to the river is not because the community does not care. People do care about the river and utilizing it to make it a bigger part of the community. They just need to feel welcomed in a space to voice their opinions, ideas, and visions. Especially when it comes to an organization like the LNC [Lewisburg Neighborhoods Corporation], there is such a wide range of projects to keep in view, and they need to know what the community cares about most in order to create change, which is what our research team has been striving to help do.” 

“People will be given an introduction to plans and proposals that have been made to date and an understanding of the need for an overarching approach in order to be able to start moving forward.  There are so many ideas and as yet no coordinated focus. We want to review those ideas, ask everyone what else should be in the mix, and work on figuring out the critical path forward, that is, what needs to happen in what order so that we can realize an improved connection to the river that balances recreation, conservation, education, and transportation issues,” Pearson said.

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