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The Tech Clinic’s project to improve the urban ecology of the West Ward. By Mike Cuomo ’09

Mike Cuomo ’09 (Wyckoff, N.J.) is one of six students comprising this year’s Technology Clinic, which is focusing on potential improvements to the urban ecology of Easton’s West Ward. Tech Clinic is a hands-on course founded in 1986 that brings together students with majors in engineering and the liberal arts to help solve real-world problems of a business, non-profit organization, or government body.

On Friday, May 9, Technology Clinic students, including myself, James Castelluccio ’09, Sean Gerrity ’09, Alysia LeComte ’08, Angela Pflug ’08, and Stefanie Wnuck ’08, gave a presentation in Kirby to members of the West Ward. This presentation was the culmination of a semester’s work in which each student has gained experience that is unlike any other class. Tech Clinic is a chance for students to gain unique research experience in a real world environment.

This Tech Clinic project was to take the largely neglected area of the escarpment and turn it into an aesthetically pleasing and useful space between the city and the flats to be used by the general public. The primary goal was to address both the physical aspects of ecology in an urban setting as well as people’s perception of their relationship to urban ecology.

To do this, an Urban Ecology Center was designed to be placed at the top of the escarpment on Elm Street. The Urban Ecology Center would be an open air building so that it feels connected with nature. The center would have solar power panels on the roof and other energy saving design features to further promote the connection between man and nature as well as make the building a sustainable structure. Also, the unique design of the center will distinguish it from surrounding buildings and attract the attention of residents.

Elm Street is the street that separates the escarpment from the rest of the West Ward. In order to blur the distinction between the city and nature the group suggested adding more street trees to this street as well as turf block. This will cause cars to slow down and make the street more inviting for pedestrians.

Another suggestion that was presented was to place vineyards on the escarpment. There are local wineries that need grapes and having grapes on the escarpment would also be aesthetically pleasing. The group collected soil for soil testing and it found the soil was suitable for grapes.

In addition to vineyards, part of the escarpment could be used for a network of multi-functional trails. These trails would range from nature, biking, or even exercise trails with stations and outdoor equipment. The trails will connect the urban zone at the top of the escarpment with the flats at the bottom of the escarpment as well as offer a path running across the length of the escarpment and hopefully to the other side of the Lehigh River to the trails on the South Side of Easton.

The escarpment has a 200 foot drop from roughly between Washington and Butler streets down to the Lehigh River. This drop in elevation could be used to generate hydropower which could be used by the facilities on the escarpment (Urban Ecology Center, lighting for trails, etc.) and the leftover energy could be sold to the grid.

After giving the presentation, the group received positive feedback on the ideas we presented. Next semester, we will continue our work and will research in greater detail to determine which ideas are the most plausible. We will give our final presentation in early December to all interested members of the West Ward, Tech Clinic sponsors, and Lafayette students and faculty.

To learn about other sustainability projects Lafayette students, faculty, and staff are working on, visit the College’s What Can I Do? web site.

  • Technology Clinic Researches Improvements to Urban Ecology of Easton’s West Ward
  • Creative Projects
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