New masterplan focuses on parks and recreation
Monday, April 29, 2024
Five young adult in front of a lectern.

During the 2023-24 academic year, a team of UI graduate students from Urban and Regional Planning and Sustainable Development worked with the City of Bondurant to update its Parks, Trails, and Greenways Master Plan. The original plan was created in 2013 when the community’s population was approximately 4,000 residents, as compared to an estimated population of 10,000 people today.

Maggie Murray, Bondurant's director of Planning and Community Development and project liaison, said of the students' work: "During this planning phase, the City recognized the potential to design neighborhood parks with distinct features that seamlessly blend into the community's broader parks, trails, and greenways system. The City commends the students for their dedication throughout the school year, particularly in engaging with the public to gather input for developing concepts for undeveloped parks in the community."

The team made their final presentation to Bondurant officials on April 26, 2024. City Manager Marketa Oliver remarked that the work was as professional as any the City has received from professional firms and will be put to use almost immediately. 

Melanie Comer (Urban & Regional Planning, 24), reflected on the yearlong project:

  1. How did the project evolve from what you first imagined last September to now?  

    The plan is not just about our team and our project, but it is a culmination of many different plans happening at the same time for the City of Bondurant. The plans created by other non-UI groups have helped to inform our scope and the direction we are taking with the plan, such as the Arts, Culture, and Wayfinding Plan and more. Our scope has also changed from having many bold, big-picture ideas to ideas that are feasible for now and in the future while still making Bondurant unique.
  2. As a relatively young and quickly growing city, what needs are particular to Bondurant with regards to parks, recreation, and green space?

    Our team has really tried to emphasize the idea of parks for everyone in our plan. This means not just young children and adults, but also teenagers, elders, individuals with disabilities, and more. Like any community, Bondurant is a city with individuals of many different backgrounds. Accessible, safe parks are a priority for this plan. Certain neighborhoods are experiencing a lack of connectivity to trails and parks, such as the Wolf Creek neighborhood and the southern portion of Bondurant overall, which is something that our plan tries to address.
  3. What is something the group has learned this year regarding parks that is exciting and/or might not be widely known? 

    The value of a small neighborhood park is something that most of us had not identified as being as crucial to a community's identity. Usually, people think of larger community parks such as a city park, or in the case of Bondurant, Lake Petocka when they think of parks. However, small neighborhood parks provide quick and easy access to outdoor recreation, and they are just as, if not more, important to a community. They provide a sense of neighborhood identity that can strengthen communities and are usually more accessible to people's homes.
  4. If you return to Bondurant in five years, what will you interested to see with regards to the community's parks, recreation, and greenways?

    Our group is extremely excited to see Bondurant's take on greenways and trails. Greenways are vastly different from trails--so we have learned! The difference between trails and greenways is that greenways are areas of green space that act as natural pathways for transportation not just for humans but also for biodiversity. Greenways can be used not just for transportation, but also as areas for environmental preservation and protection of natural resources. Typically, when one thinks of trails, one thinks of paved pathways, whether with gravel or concrete, and greenways are natural pathways. It will also be interesting to see Bondurant's take on "hometown feel" as the community grows.
  5. What specific areas of expertise and interest do the group members bring to the project, and what have you learned from collaborating with each other?

    Each member brings a different skillset to the table. Design, critical thinking skills, narratives/storytelling, data analysis, etc. are all crucial parts of the plan and are skills that we have been able to learn more about from working with each other. Our team is fortunate enough to mesh extremely well together and we have definitely enjoyed this opportunity to work together on such a fun and exciting plan while also forming strong friendships.
    Members of the team include (in left to right order as photographed above): 
  • Madelyn Stoen (Urban & Regional Planning, 24) has an interest in how urban planning impacts health disparities in a community, including the effects of nature and green spaces on health.
  • Kenna Bell (Sustainable Development, 24) focused on greenways, storytelling, and opportunities for creative wayfinding throughout Bondurant's trail system. 
  • Farnaz Fatahi Moghadam (Urban & Regional Planning, 25) rendered the digital designs for the project and shared her expertise as an architect.
  • Melanie Comer (Urban & Regional Planning, 24), an intern with the City of Iowa City Neighborhood and Development Services Department, focused on housing and its relationship to area parks.
  • Ben Whisnant (Urban & Regional Planning, 24) studies environmental planning and transportation planning, with a particular focus on safe, accessible, equitable, and affordable transportation methods.