Accessibility has been an issue with the Connecticut River Walk and Bikeway (River Walk) since its completion in 2003. Our project focuses on designing better connections between this Springfield, MA rail trail and the local environmental justice communities it is meant to serve. As a team of four undergraduate design students, we have spent three months conducting a comprehensive research study on the trail. Ultimately, we will be turning over our research to the Appalachian Mountain Club which intends to use it for reference in their efforts to secure funding for improving River Walk access in the city of Springfield.
As part of an undergraduate design studio class under the instruction of Professor Michael DiPasquale, our team conducted extensive research on the Connecticut River Walk and Bikeway. Looking through the lens of equity, we identified a cogent lack of access to this rail trail from the Brightwood neighborhood, to which it runs parallel.
Similar environmental justice issues in Springfield have been studied by UMass students in the past, such as “Making Connections — Envisioning Springfield’s North End,” and "Healthy Place-Making: Revitalizing Springfield’s Medical District," completed in graduate urban design studios in 2009 and 2019, respectively. Our work this semester builds upon these previous studies, while also delineating itself through our focus on the River Walk specifically.
Our study consists of four parts: research, community engagement, design solutions, and deliverables. Much like a traditional planning project, these objectives were completed in a partially chronological fashion. Our approach consisted of overlaps between each component — as much as our research informed our engagement, what we learned from our engagement also informed our research, and so on.
With the ultimate goal of providing the Appalachian Mountain Club with a wealth of information supporting the need for funding for improvements to the Connecticut River Walk and Bikeway, our team combined the results of our research, engagement, and design into this document: our deliverable for the project.
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