Landscape architecture students present restoration ideas for communities destroyed by 2020 fire

A view of Pine Creek and proposed boardwalk for a project to redesign Malden. With permission from Lorena Zepeda-Fuertes.

PULLMAN, Wash. — Landscape architecture students are reimagining the future of the small towns of Malden and Pine City, Washington, where a devastating fire on Labor Day in 2020 destroyed much of the towns’ home and building infrastructure.  

The students will share their designs for community revitalization with community residents and officials at the Malden Fire Station, 1 Sprague Street, Malden, on Tuesday, April 25 from 1:30 – 4 p.m. The 19 students in the class each developed their own project and focus. Restoring area trails, developing fire-wise landscapes for homes, and even relocating the town itself are just a few of their project’s emphases. 

“This is an opportunity for students to think about their role as designers, and global citizens,” said Jolie Kaytes, professor in the School of Design and Construction. “It’s an opportunity for them to build their skills around civic engagement and advocate for an idea they’re passionate about.”

In the capstone design course, led by Kaytes and Associate Professor Steve Austin, the curriculum incorporates service learning and ecologically informed design, including topics of climate change, fire, resilience and adaptation. 

The student cohort is also completing a complementary project on the impact of climate laws on Washington’s small communities. The two projects work in conjunction to allow students to learn from and design for the state’s often overlooked rural communities. 

Students witness a burned bridge on the Palouse to Cascades Trail near Malden, WA. 

“The project embodies the university’s land-grant mission to produce and share scholarly work that benefits local communities,” said Kaytes. 

As part of the semester-long course, students visited Malden and Pine City, exploring the landscape and interacting with community members. They also studied the area’s landscape history, including its history of indigenous presence and ecological changes. 

The capstone project is a collaborative effort with the Pine Creek Community Restoration Long Term Recovery Organization (PCCRLTRO), a program dedicated to navigating community recovery and wellbeing. The organization has been collaborating with local and state agencies to develop innovative solutions for a robust and resilient community.

“This partnership brings forth ideas that we may not have captured otherwise, broadening the scope of possibilities, and allows students to work on climate projects that impact local communities,” said Chandelle Frick, executive director of PCCRLTRO.

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