Humboldt State is a small university in a small town. The idea of safety would seemingly be a given in such a tight-knit community but the truth is that for many HSU students, safety is the number one thing they are worried about when walking around the streets of Arcata.
Through a recent grant from HSU, a group of students and professors from two different disciplines united to initiate the Wayfinder Project. This project, in collaboration with the City of Arcata, looks to establish routes between HSU and the surrounding community of Arcata using signage with the ultimate goal of enhancing student safety both on and off-campus.
Whitney Ogle is an assistant professor in the kinesiology department and is looking forward to seeing students take advantage of the new trails.
“I want students to engage with the community and feel safe doing so,” Ogle said. “I hear stories — anecdotal stories — from students who have never been to the marsh or haven’t been to the plaza or haven’t been into the community forest. And then other students who drive everywhere and it’s like this is a pretty small community that you can walk.”
The proposed routes are slated to start near the Sunset Blvd. overpass, go through the Creamery District, circle around the Arcata Marsh area, barrel through the Plaza and then end back on the HSU campus.
Ogle hopes that maybe the Wayfinder Project paths could turn into competitive endeavors for students, who might want to brag about how quickly they were able to traverse them.
Coming at the project from another angle is HSU Recreation Administration Professor Ara Pachmayer. Having a background in the tourism industry, Pachmayer is glad to support her students in the novel work that they are doing.
“I haven’t worked on a project like this before, but I had done a lot of tourism-related projects,” Pachmayer said. “So it’s interesting because we’re learning a lot as we go along with it as well just because it’s so new to me.”
Ogle is confident that the community of Arcata will benefit from this project. To her, the more students getting out and about around town, the better because they will be spending more money and giving back to a city that is special to her in many ways.
“That’s what makes our community so unique and really great,” Ogle said. “I think, to show students that they’re welcome here, that this town wouldn’t really exist if it wasn’t for HSU.”
Mandy Hackney is a senior and a recreation administration student who is working on the Wayfinder Project. She is excited to be encouraging physical activity for herself and others in a time where we are all mostly stuck indoors.
“Being outside and actually installing the signs on the trails — that’s what I’m really looking forward to,” Hackney said. “Like doing something in person outdoors.”
Ogle and her team also plan to create orientation material for incoming freshmen this upcoming fall. These orientation-related packets will include resources for physical and mental health alongside a map of all the trails from the Wayfinder Project.