Youth create places in new outdoor program from CSU’s Institute for the Built Environment

Story by Katie Vega

In July, a group of 17 kids between the ages of 11 and 15 participated in a new, free summer program offered by Colorado State University’s Institute for the Built Environment to work with youth on improving shared community outdoor areas.

Youth creating placesIn the Youth Creating Places (YCP) program, the kids learned how to confidently ride bicycles on bike trails and roads; they learned about “activating,” or revitalizing, underused public spaces in Fort Collins and in other cities; and they worked on their own neighborhood pop-up installations to activate Soft Gold Park.

The YCP program concluded with a final showcase of the youths’ four pop-up installations at the park on July 28 that brought together family and community members to celebrate the activated park and the youths’ achievements. The showcase event concluded with a soccer tournament championship game where winners received regulation soccer balls as prizes and giant ice cream cakes for the YCP youth and their families to enjoy.

The three-week YCP program, led by Katie Vega at the Institute for the Built Environment, was made possible through the collaborative efforts of Safe Routes to School, The Family Center/La Familia, Bike Fort Collins, Big Green, the city’s FC Bikes and Nature in the City programs, IBE’s Urban Lab, LAUNCH, The Artery and Create Places, with support from the Colorado Health Foundation.

Youth creating placesThe program aimed to teach youth about “tactical urbanism,” or creative, temporary place-making with the goal of activating their own neighborhood park in North Fort Collins. The program was free of charge, included lunches, and also made bicycles available to kids who needed them, to remove barriers to participation.

The project team developed a curriculum that included multiple guest speakers and hands-on activities to inform and guide the youth to envision and design their own pop-up activity hubs for the park. The youth presented their designs to a panel of landscape architects and the crew chief for Northside Parks, Bob Burkhardt, for feedback. From there, the youth determined which pop-ups to build. The four pop-ups selected included:

  • A GaGa ball pit
  • A skate ramp
  • A sculpture garden
  • Mini soccer goals and field

The YCP program not only positively affected the lives of the 17 youth, but also increased community knowledge and awareness of tactical urbanism as a method to test out new community design ideas. IBE hopes to offer the program again next summer with the vision of enhancing the community’s sense of place and connection to one another.

The Institute of the Built Environment is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.