WSU students find new paths to the Clearwater

A river scene with trees in the foreground and a bunch of students sit on the grass with their backs to the camera. One student is standing and looking at the camera.
WSU landscape architecture students visited Kamiah and the Clearwater River on a field trip earlier this fall.

Landscape architecture students at Washington State University are developing plans for accessible trails along the Clearwater River waterfront for the community of Kamiah, Idaho. They will present their final designs from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. on December 6 in the Elson S. Floyd Cultural Center on the Pullman Campus.

As part of the third-year landscape architecture design course, the students have worked with representatives from the National Forest Service, the city of Kamiah, and the Nez Perce Tribe on the project. The course is taught by Marcus Owens, assistant professor in WSU School of Design and Construction.

The area for the project is an 11-acre site near the community of Kamiah in the Bitterroot Mountains along the Clearwater River. The region has been the traditional homeland of the Nez Perce Tribe for thousands of years. The trails project would allow for more community access to the river, especially for the Looking Glass Senior Center in Kamiah. The goal is to provide a safe and environmentally friendly way to the waterfront.

“The studio aims to expand upon Forest Service efforts to make their new Supervisor’s Office more assessable to the community with a network of walking trails,” said Owens. “Key issues include how to address Highway 12, a major regional thoroughfare cutting through town, which is also the primary means of accessing the Clearwater River, the restoration of Lawyer Creek, and navigating the various jurisdictions that encompass the town, including federal, municipal, and tribal.”

The course aims to introduce students to landscape architecture principles for design at the community and regional scales and link design with ecological principles, said Owens. The students also learn how to consider vegetation and plant communities through lenses of historical, contemporary, and emerging trends within the profession, especially as they pertain to water, infrastructure, ecosystem restoration, and climate change.

As part of the course, students traveled to the Kamiah area in September, where they had a chance to meet with U.S. Forest Service staff. They also visited the Nez Perce Tribal community center near the Kamiah waterfront as well as a sacred site that is a part of the Nez Perce origin story. The students as groups first researched their constituencies and then developed a high-level design and concept before developing schematic designs for three sites along the river.

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