This article first appeared on Spokane Public Radio | By Rebecca White. 
Published April 26, 2023.

A group of Washington State University Landscape Architecture students are hoping to help the communities of Malden, and Pine City, reimagine their outdoor spaces.

The majority of buildings in both communities were destroyed in the 2020 Babb Road Wildfire. Residents are in the midst of the long process of rebuilding the homes, government buildings and community spaces lost in the fire.

The proposals, created by 19 students, range from a hiking trail to an online guide for growing fire-wise plants.

A rendering included in student Erin Hayashida’s proposal to residents of Malden and Pine City. Those communities lost about 80 percent of their buildings in a 2020 wildfire.

Erin Hayashida, a senior landscape architecture student who is developing the fire wise website, said she wanted to create a practical resource that would complement the hard work many in the community are already doing.

“I just wanted to create a space, where if they were curious about firewise concepts,” Hayashida said, “Where they had a place to go instead of going on the internet and becoming stressed, because there’s so many articles, and it’s not curated to their landscape.”

Senior Landscape Architecture student Keya Payne, said her project, combines fire-wise planning, historic restoration and energy efficiency.

When students visited Pine Creek area residents, they spoke about the loss, and damage, to historic town landmarks. She said her design highlights those, but also makes allowances for future fires.

“I love history,” Payne said, “so (I focused on) restoration, and trying to save as much as possible to try to hold on to Malden’s future, and keep that small-town idea.”

Jolie Kaytes, one of two Landscape Architecture professors who is teaching the class, said she’s hopeful the project will also show students the impact of civic involvement.

“This becomes ideally a positive exchange for the community, and encouraging students of course to continue a lifetime of civic engagements with communities, and thinking about how to interact with community groups wherever they are,” Kaytes said.

Kaytes said residents of Malden and Pine City are free to try any of the ideas that students share.

Associate Professor Steve Austin, who is also teaching the class, said some proposals by students can also be used as longer-term inspiration, or a way to spark conversation.

“This is not about going out and building something tomorrow,” Austin said. “This is more about weaving students work into the fabric of the community and the things that are already ongoing, and adding that much more benefit for them.”