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Rural planning experience

April 18, 2012
By DAVID PRENATT - CORRESPONDENT ( , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

SHERMAN - The halls of higher education paid a visit to the fields of Sherman as a group of graduate students from the University of Guelph in Ontario came to the area to study rural development.

Students and professors in the university's Rural Planning and Development Program spent several days in Chautauqua County during their field trip to the United States, including an impromptu optional visit to the Sherman Town Board meeting March 1. Other scheduled stops on the trip included Jamestown Community College, the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown, Westfield and Dunkirk Planning Boards, Chautauqua Lake Management Commission meeting, the Roger Troy Peterson Institute and the Dunkirk Technology Incubator.

"The students have the opportunity to see planning and economic development initiatives in the New York State planning context, learn from the experiences, challenges and opportunities of practicing planners, economic development officials and politicians," said Wayne J. Caldwell, director of the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development in Guelph.

Article Photos

Photo by David Prenatt
Graduate students from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada and their instructors recently visited a Sherman Town Board meeting as part of a field trip to learn about rural planning practices in the United States. From left to right are: professor of Rural Planning and Development Wayne J. Caldwell; first-year masters degree student Valencia Gasparo; first-year masters degree student Logan Juffermans; and co-instructor and doctoral student Paul Kraehling.

Caldwell and co-instructor Paul Kraehling brought 14 graduate students on the trip as part of the Advanced Planning Practice phase of the Graduate Rural Planning and Development course. The course is designed to familiarize students with actual planning practices of rural communities and to learn planning skills used by all communities and compare planning practices between the two countries.

"There are many similar challenges to planning in a rural context," Caldwell said. "The need for collaboration, coordination and future planning to move the agenda forward. The students learn the challenges of short-term versus long-term planning, the need for economic development and the identification of opportunities for local success elements to provide jobs."

Caldwell said he believes areas such as Sherman have a viable future because of opportunities such as, "its rich historical legacy, rich natural resources, new development activities and strong learning and educational institutions."

Kraehling said the field trip gives the students exposure to the benefits and challenges faced by rural planners today, how to, "communicate, collaborate and coordinate efforts in a rural setting," he said. "It shows them first-hand how a planner has to be skilled and maneuver and coordinate all of these things."

First-year masters degree student Valencia Gasparo said she was first-off impressed by the welcoming nature of the people in the area, and the experience helped her see rural planning in action.

"It has given me the chance to see what its application comes down to day to day on a real level," she said. "It has been a great mirroring experience of rural development between Canada and the States."

Fellow masters degree student Logan Juffermans agreed and said the experience has given him the opportunity to grow.

"It's amazing to see the comparison that does exist (between Canada and the United States)," he said. "The same planning problems are going to occur here as well as there. There are good ideas here in Chautauqua County."



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