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U of U Students Join Community in Designing Fairpark Garden

Apr. 5, 2006 — On Saturday, University of Utah students, from a variety of disciplines, will assist Wasatch Community Gardens in hosting a neighborhood gardening fair intended to engage west Salt Lake City community members in the design of Fairpark Garden and in the “greening up” of the surrounding Utah State Fairpark neighborhoods.

The family-oriented open house will be held from 1 until 4 p.m., at Northwest Multipurpose Center, 1300 W. 300 N., and will feature gardening tips, demonstrations, children’s arts and crafts and food. The event is free and open to the public.

Students from Community Studies Assistant Professor Caitlin Cahill”s course “Community Nonprofit Organizations” have helped to coordinate the community outreach event. They joined students from Political Science Assistant Professor Luke Garrott’s “Neighborhood Democracy” class in performing Saturday door-to-door surveys in the Fairpark, Glendale, Rose Park, Jackson and Central City neighborhoods, identifying resident needs, services and the various ways in which people participate in their communities. Students from the “Urban Planning Graduate West Side Studio” course, taught by College of Architecture + Planning Assistant Professor Maged Senbel, participated in the neighborhood research. Students in Senbel’s class also convened a community design workshop to solicit input into a redesign of the Fairpark garden. They will share the evolution of these designs on Saturday. Students from Cahill and Senbel’s classes will also present data from the West Side Survey. This educational, community-based research and service-learning project is just one of many examples that illustrate the reciprocal benefit to both university and community partnerships in west Salt Lake City.

Engaging in community-based research and service-learning creates opportunities for collaborating across disciplinary boundaries to address social problems in the community, says Cahill. “Working with grassroots community partners, such as Wasatch Community Gardens, can be a powerful experience for students who apply theory in the ‘real world’ and engage in mutual learning and action while addressing contemporary social, political and environmental issues.”

Elisa Hamblin, a University urban planning graduate student, says: “I feel that going out into a community and finding out about their wants and needs is essential in understanding the diverse people that may use something like a community garden. When people are connected and heard by people that are making decisions for their community, they may feel more invested in their place and happier with changes that may come.”

Another U graduate student participant, Cathryn Haas, studying parks, recreation and tourism, says, “It’s a great experience to emphasize the importance of working with, rather than for, agencies in the community. This has been a wonderful collaborative process with the individuals involved with Wasatch Community Gardens, the community that they serve, and local youth.”

For more information on the neighborhood gardening fair, call 801-359-2658. For more information on Wasatch Community Gardens, a nonprofit agency, visit