Clay City has a plan, thanks to ISU prof and students

September 5, 2008

The rural community of Clay City-Harrison Township now has a road map for progress thanks to a group of Recreation and Sport Management students from Indiana State University.

After two years of gathering data, the students have completed a master plan-- a living document that will enable the town to apply for grants to expand recreation and leisure offerings that promote health and prevent disease.

Known as the "Mayberry of the Midwest", the community in southern Clay County is home to 1,019 people. In an effort to meet the needs of those residents, the REIN Center Coalition was founded. REIN stands for the areas the group aims to address: recreation, education, information and nutrition.

The coalition's ultimate dream is to build a community center, but first the group needed to better define its goals and understand the needs of the town. That's when the coalition partnered with Nathan Schaumleffel, assistant professor of recreation and sport management, and his Community Organizations and Leisure Services class to create a master plan through his Indiana Rural Recreation Development Project initiative.

"We did not and do not have the $40,000 to $50,000 necessary for pay for such a plan," said Pat Wilkinson, member of the REIN Center Coalition advisory board. "It was a perfect match for the coalition to partner with ISU to obtain this much-needed document."

The master plan includes six main components: history, population, a community development asset map, standards analysis, needs assessment and a list of priority projects with associated cost estimates. The students worked in groups to accomplish the massive project which included historical research, site visits, asset mapping, data collection and scientific analysis.

Schaumleffel and two of his students, as well as assistant professor of recreation and sport management Kimberly J. Bodey, presented the master plan to residents at a recent meeting of the REIN Center Coalition and community members.

"This is something that is going to be continually updated by your community. It's a functional document and most communities don't have that yet," Schaumleffel told the audience. "The bottom line of all of this is sustainability."

The plan revealed that the number one request of residents in the community is a space that is clearly for recreation. With a median age of 37 for residents, that means offering activities that benefit all ages.

The project has enabled the department to work collaboratively to help the community while giving students real-world experience. Bodey incorporated the needs assessment component of the plan into her graduate level research and program evaluation course.

"This job has cut across our department for two years," Schaumleffel said. "It's been an excellent experience for our students, especially those who are about to go for their first full-time job interview. They can now say they've helped create a working master plan."

For sophomore recreation and sport management major Colby Martin, working closely with community members during on-site visits was an eye-opening experience.

"I was really excited to help create the master plan, but I didn't realize just how much was in Clay City until we started the project," said Martin, a native of Clinton. "It really made me want to help out small communities."

After the presentation, coalition members asked questions and discussed the plan.

Schaumleffel encouraged those in attendance to be creative and make the most of their resources by working with other groups throughout the community. Innovation was a key component of the plan's recommendations.

"One new idea is to use the present tennis court and start over or resurface it as a multi-purpose court," Wilkinson said. "It could then be used for roller hockey, as an additional basketball court and of course for tennis and other games, which provides more opportunities for promoting health and preventing disease for our community members."

The nonprofit group has already made some progress toward its goals, including opening a volunteer-run library after the town library was closed due to lack of funding. Other dreams will take more time, along with more resources.

Wilkinson said the coalition will study the findings in the plan and begin the process of applying for grants. The group plans to expand the use to the REIN Center Community Library to include story hours for children, computer classes for adults and Tai Chi for senior citizens.

Clay City is not the first rural community to benefit from the work of ISU students and faculty. Schaumleffel and his students worked with the Rockville Park Board to create a leisure needs assessment for teens which led to the creation of a new soccer field at the local park. Both the Clay City and Rockville assessments were made possible through Schaumleffel's Indiana Rural Recreation Development Project (InRRDP).

The InRRDP pairs rural communities seeking enhanced recreation and leisure opportunities with undergraduates seeking real-world experience. Students like Michael Hagenow, a recent graduate of ISU's recreation and sport management program, have received hands-on training before starting their careers.

Hagenow, originally from La Porte, worked on the Clay City project since it began in 2006 and was glad to be able to see it through to completion. As he starts applying for positions with youth recreation programs, he will use what he learned in helping create the master plan.

"One person's needs aren't always the needs of everyone else," he said. "We gave them suggestions and now they can decide for themselves."

More information on the Indiana Rural Recreation Development Project is available online at http://www1.indstate.edu/inrrdp/

A copy of the master plan is available at the REIN Center Community Library as well as online at http://www1.indstate.edu/inrrdp/masterplanningforparksandrecreationresources.htm

The library, located at 700 Main St. in Clay City, is open on Wednesdays and Fridays from 1-4 p.m. and on Thursdays from 1-8 p.m.

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Contact: Nathan A. Schaumleffel, assistant professor, Department of Recreation and Sport Management, Indiana State University, 812-237-2189 or nschaumleff@indstate.edu

Writer: Emily Taylor, assistant director of media relations, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or etaylor16@indstate.edu

Photo and cutline: Colby Martin, a recreation and sport management major at ISU, presents the population analysis portion of the Clay City-Harrison Township Master Plan to members of the community's REIN Center Coalition. Martin and other ISU students recently completed the two year service-learning project. (ISU photo/Tony Campbell)

http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/354931976_dfujE-D.jpg

Story Highlights

After two years of work, ISU Recreation and Sport Managements students have created a master plan for Clay City-Harrison Township. The results of the service-learning project will enable the rural community to apply for grants to fund improvements in recreational offerings.

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