IUK students help design dog park in Marion

·4 min read

May 16—A dog park has been a long-coveted addition for the city of Marion.

When resources and funding finally came together, the Marion Rotary Club, which headed up the project, wanted input from a younger generation about the dog park's design.

It led the service organization to Indiana University Kokomo and the college's KEY (Kokomo Experience and You) Center for Innovation.

Specifically, the Rotary Club wanted a dog park with an agility course that looked natural. An agility course is an obstacle course for dogs.

The dog park will be built at Ballard Field, a public green space with lots of trees and rocks on the east side of Marion.

Director for the KEY Center of Innovation Alan Krabbenhoft linked the Rotary Club up with professor Leda Casey's urban and environmental geology class.

Students in the class spent last semester designing the landscape of the agility course and determining what materials would work best while also maintaining a natural look.

One group considered using wood for the course equipment, however upkeep costs made them ultimately go with recycled plastic materials.

Josh Farmer, one of the students in the group, said using recycled plastics would require less upkeep and keep those plastics out of landfills.

"In the long run, I think that it'll be more sustainable," he said.

Another group looked at using fiberglass materials because they wouldn't leak into the ground or break down over time. They too thought about wood but decided against it due to the dog park's location — in a floodplain.

Students encountered challenges as they had to consider a number of factors, including price of materials compared to the project's budget, longevity of the equipment, upkeep cost and logistics such as delivery and pick up.

"All the factors and having to put them into our goal has probably been the hardest thing," said student Faith Rock.

For student Barrett Dahl, the experience highlighted how much work goes into sustainability projects.

"There's a lot of moving pieces," he said. "This makes me understand why it takes so long."

Students visited the site in Marion and met with Mayor Jess Alumbaugh.

Real-world experiences, such as product procurement, environmental impact, costs and talking with stakeholders, is the goal of the KEY Center for Innovation.

The center connects businesses and organizations with IUK students for experiential learning projects. The goal is to have students apply what they learn in class to make an impact in the community.

"Everything we do in regard to KEY is built around helping students engage in the community and their fellow students," Krabbenhoft said in an interview last year. "They have to be able to think outside of the box, and they typically can."

"I think it's awesome my students will be able to apply what they're learning in class and benefit a community," added professor Casey. "Students are excited to do something for class they can put on a resume. It's a win win."

Past projects done through the KEY Center include developing promotional materials for the city of Tipton, social media for area golf courses and making a human resources manual for a cleaning company. All these projects were done by students.

Krabbenhoft said projects can lead to internships for students.

Rotarian Dwight Ott sought out a younger generation's ideas as the dog park is meant to attract young professionals to Marion. The dog park will greet people as they enter town from the east.

"They're really looking for a community space," said student Abby Harris. "He wanted our perspective, which was really cool."

Students split off into three groups and presented their course designs at the end of the semester.

They suggested features including a log-like tunnel and stepping stones that looked like actual stone, all made of renewable materials. Ott said the Rotary Club will likely include aspects of each design in the agility course.

"They had some great ideas," he said. "It was such a thorough presentation."

"The coolest thing," according to Ott, was the canine castle that dogs can crawl up, under, around and jump on. It is made of recycled plastic and rubber.

"I think that it will be a nice centerpiece to the agility course," he said.

Construction on the dog park will begin this summer with a fall completion date expected.

Spencer Durham can be reached at 765-454-8598, by email at spencer.durham@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at @Durham_KT.