The conceptual design of Columbus’ riverfront could be shaped by high school students.

Although the city has hired an Illinois-based professional firm, Hitchcock Design Group, to design the project, 97 freshmen at Columbus Signature Academy — New Tech High School stuck their toes in the water on riverfront ideas of their own.

English teacher Veronica Buckler and science teacher Andrew Larson asked their students to come up with a vision for the city’s riverfront.

New Tech students were divided into groups of three to develop prototypes of a riverfront connection between Second and Third streets, including a written and verbal pitch about their proposals.

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Students were asked to consider the environmental impact of their overall design and how improvements such as reducing erosion, habitat quality or the reduction of flood risks might be applied, Larson said.

Students Lillian Tempest, Abby Braunelier and Samuel Moyer proposed a walkway with metal railings on both sides along the East Fork of the White River that would also feature a designated area for people to float downstream using water tubes.

“A lot of people now see the river as boring and dirty,” Tempest said. “We want to make it a better family environment.”

The team of Olin Kiser, Isaac Reed and Jaden Dobson created a 3-D design on a computer of a concrete bridge. The bridge, about 500 to 525 feet long, would start at the Upland Columbus Pump House restaurant and brew pub, extend across the river and would be used for different recreational activities such as walking and biking, the students said.

Dobson also said he believes the riverfront is in need of a major facelift, describing its current appearance as “nasty looking.”

However, Kiser said he was optimistic that the riverfront’s appearance could be greatly improved.

“It has a lot of potential, obviously,” he said.

Expert lends an ear

Randy Royer, the city’s riverfront project manager with Hitchcock Design Group, was among individuals who listened to students’ proposals.Royer said their ideas will be considered as the firm works to develop a variety of riverfront concepts, which will be presented later this year. He said the future of what the riverfront could look like remains wide open.

“It’s a process of determining what the community wants,” Royer said.

The city held a workshop earlier this month at Columbus City Hall that allowed the public to share what they would like to see along the river between the Second Street and Third Street bridges. An online survey about the riverfront has also garnered more than 600 responses from the public, Royer said.

“We’ve received a lot of great input through that,” Royer said.

Larson said the project gave students an opportunity to research a problem and grasp a better understanding of the issues facing the riverfront.

A recent field trip to the riverfront gave students a better perspective before starting on their projects, Buckler said.

“We’ve got some really creative innovative kids in the class,” Buckler said. “I think we’ve got a couple that may be considered.”

Heather Pope, redevelopment director for the city, said the input from students is important as Columbus looks to improve its riverfront.

“I’m glad they put so much thought and effort into a community project,” Pope said.

Alternative designs for the riverfront project were originally expected to be presented in June, but that has been pushed back until mid-August, Pope said. An exact date on when a final concept will be unveiled has not been established, she said.

Online survey

Public feedback is still being collected through an online survey about the city’s riverfront. The survey can be found at www.surveymonkey.com/r/RVFRJJJ.

What's next

Alternative riverfront concepts are expected to be presented by Hitchcock Design Group sometime in mid-August, said Heather Pope, city redevelopment director.

Information: Visit columbusriverfront.org.

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com