Washougal High students tout infrastructure needs

Youth tell city officials they would like to see dog park, pedestrian friendly sidewalks, food forest and bike park

Washougal High students present to the Washougal City Council on Monday, May 24, 2022. (Contributed photo courtesy of the Washougal School District)

Washougal High School engineering students are enlightening elected officials on the types of city projects that might be most important to Washougal’s next generation.

The students shared their visions with Washougal City Council members during the Council’s May 23 meeting.

The ideas concentrated on green infrastructure that would improve the overall community, including a food forest, bike park, sidewalk improvements to make Washougal more pedestrian-friendly and a dog park.

Washougal High engineering teachers Jason Blaesing and Donna Schatz worked with students to envision their projects, identify barriers and costs, and refine their pitches. The students generated proposed sites with mapping tools, researched environmental benefits and challenges, and developed costing estimates.

“In class, they are exposed to the role and the work of engineers, and the design and development of solutions to real-world problems,” Blaesing told the council. “Through investigating green infrastructure, students looked at different solution strategies that engineers and planners are using to address urban problems. We focused on the green infrastructure plan in Norfolk, Virginia — that was part of our curriculum. We looked at different land and water goals that were being implemented there, and we looked at how we can bring those same goals here to Washougal and improve the green infrastructure in their own community.”

Washougal School District Superintendent Mary Templeton also commended the students’ efforts.

“We’re trying to create the future citizens not only of Washougal, but our nation. And right here in front of us tonight, you saw them,” Templeton told city council members on May 23. “Tonight, what you saw was a job-ready skill set — to be able to speak in public, to conceptualize what it means to be able to put details and information together to create a pitch or an idea. That’s the artistry, the creativity around that. And you saw the collaboration — they spent hours and hours collaborating with each other in class and outside of class to put together a project and a presentation. That is an investment in the community.”

Several council members praised the students’ proposals and said officials have been trying to find ways to bring many of the students’ project ideas, including a downtown dog park, to fruition.

“We’re preparing to (apply for) grants to get a lot of the things that you’re talking about, so great minds think alike,” councilmember Michelle Wagner said.

“You are the future leaders of whatever community you’re going to reside in,” councilmember Ernie Suggs told the students. “You can take this impact that you have brought to us and keep it going. And no matter what the outcome is, be positive. Keep your ideas in the forefront so that you can share them with other people.”