U of G Students Help Rebuild Goderich After Tornado

September 27, 2011 - News Release

Students across the University of Guelph’s School of Environmental Design and Rural Development (SEDRD) are helping Goderich, Ont., recover from widespread damage sustained when a powerful tornado struck “Canada’s Prettiest Town” Aug. 21.

Profs. Wayne Caldwell, director of SEDRD, and Lise Burcher are among SEDRD faculty who have begun projects allowing students to apply their knowledge and support the community following the natural disaster.

“The tornado in Goderich demonstrates how vulnerable we all are to the effects of man-made and natural disasters," said Caldwell. "Not only did the tornado destroy many businesses and homes — it impacted services and service delivery. I quickly realized that our SEDRD students could help the community in a number of ways to get back on its feet.”

Students in the rural planning and development (RPD) program are helping to create a consultation model for the town. Besides helping Goderich engage its citizens in decision-making and developing a vision, the class is writing a manual for possible use in communities across North America. The manual will outline best practices for community engagement after a natural disaster.

On Sept. 24, Burcher’s fourth-year bachelor of landscape architecture (BLA) students served as focus group facilitators for the town’s first public meeting and community workshop on parks and public spaces.

Guelph BLA students and RPD master’s students are designing concepts and plans for public spaces devastated by the tornado, such as the historical Courthouse Square and Park.

“The students will develop an initial research piece on a number of topics, including the civic square, heritage resources, intensification opportunities and urban forestry strategies,” Burcher said. “Their background research then will be made available to the community of Goderich as the foundation for conceptual design proposals.”

Guelph students will visit Goderich several times this semester, beginning with the public meeting.

Mid-semester, they will present preliminary rebuilding designs for community input. They will present final scenarios near the end of the semester.

Later this fall, BLA students will help Goderich residents plant trees under Wellington County’s Green Legacy Program.

Students in SEDRD’s capacity development and extension program are documenting Goderich residents’ stories of the tornado.

“Our hope is that sharing their stories will contribute to the healing process,” said Caldwell. “The stories could be turned into a play, led by local residents, and the theatre production shared with the community.”

U of G’s bachelor's and master’s programs in landscape architecture — established in 1964 and 1973, respectively — are among the oldest professional programs of their kind in Canada. The master's in rural planning is the only program of its kind in North America, and the master's in capacity development and extension is the only program in the world that teaches capacity development in the context of agriculture and rural studies.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or lhunt@uoguelph.ca, or Shiona Mackenzie, Ext. 56982 or shiona@uoguelph.ca.

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