MSU planning students helping Scottville with walkability study

January 20, 2023

MSU planning students with Scottville City Manager Jimmy Newkirk, right.

MSU planning students helping Scottville with walkability study

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SCOTTVILLE — Five students enrolled in Michigan State University’s Urban and Regional Planning Practicum course are assisting the City of Scottville with assessing the city’s walkable spaces. The course is MSU’s capstone course required of all students graduating in urban planning.

“These students are bringing a fresh look at ways that people can safely walk around Scottville,” City Manager Jimmy Newkirk said. “We have a town that was platted in the late 1800s and saw various stages of development throughout the 20th century, including periods where sidewalks were not considered necessary. We are hoping that these students will help the city develop a plan to make our town safer.” 

Newkirk said some of the focuses of the students include safe walker routes to Mason County Central Schools, Gateway to Success Academy, Mycopia/Gourmet Mushrooms, Riverside Park and MacPhail Field.

“While some of these areas do have sidewalks, many of those sidewalks are in need of repair. Part of their assignment will be to identify the high priority areas and propose solutions that they city may be able to implement.” 

The city received a grant from the Community Foundation for Mason County to cover the cost of the program, which is $3,500. 

“If the city were to hire a consulting firm for these services it would cost several thousands of dollars,” Newkirk said. “This is a much needed study that has been a goal of the City Commission for several years and we are excited to see the results.” 

MSU’s practicum program is supported by MSU Extension and the Regional Economic Initiative. 

Course objectives include mastering basic techniques concerning data collection, interviews, fieldwork, map making, and report writing and applying analytical techniques needed to create an understanding of the state of community and its issues; preparing professional quality reports and graphics; learning how to work in groups, assume leadership roles; and behave in a professional and ethical manner; presenting and communicating planning assessments and recommendations to multiple audiences. 

Newkirk said Scottville was the only small town selected this semester for the course. Most of the program’s other work is taking place in urban areas. 

“This is another way that the city administration and the city commission is dedicated to improving the quality of life for the residents of Scottville and those who visit the town. Naturally, after assessments are made the City Commission, Planning Commission and Downtown Development Authority will each review the plans and decide how to implement the plans, including finding funding.” 

The students are expected to present their findings in May. 

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