HOULKA – Thousands of people have already walked, run and cycled the Tanglefoot Trail and Houlka is trying to get a few of them to stop and spend a few dollars downtown.
The CREATE Community Guidance Class at Mississippi State University has developed a project aimed at pointing Trail Trekers to the businesses and stores available to them in Houlka. Under the direction of the MSU College of Art, Architecture, and Design and the Carl Small Town Center, bike paths and walking lanes have been painted on the streets.
“We worked on the idea for this project this winter and this is the application of those ideas,” said Katherine Ernst, a senior architect major from Gulfport. “We approached the city of New Houlka and asked them what they wanted us to do. They said they wanted people on the Trail to stop and shop.”
Ernst said bike paths and walking lanes were the obvious solution.
“Different color paint will clarify the bike path and walking lane,” said Ernst. “The lanes circle the square and head off into the community, too.”
Yellow will be for the bike trail and white will be walking paths.
Ernst said the fun part of the class has been putting design, art and architectural ideas into practice.
Emily Roush-Eliott, professor for the class, said highlighting what a community offers is a new trend in architecture and design.
“It’s called Public Interest Architecture,” said Roush-Elliott. “Architecture is not just shiny buildings, but designing communities so people can move around and enjoy the buildings and what is inside them.”
Roush-Elliott said they used curiosity and color to get cyclists and runners to follow the painted trails.
“Too often class project end up with a book or plan that gets put on a shelf,” said Roush-Elliott. “This is actual hand-on work that will have an impact on both the Trail and New Houlka.”
Houlka Mayor Jimmy Kelly said he has been pleased with the class project.
“They didn’t come in with a bunch of grand plans, but rather asked us what we wanted and then dreamed up the way to get it,” said Kelly. “They have been very professional and very polished. I think their ideas will work.”
Kelly said the city wants to cash in on the Tanglefoot Trail opportunity and this project meshed with the city’s goals.
Kelly said the class has also come up with ideas for signage, storefront improvements and other ways to spiff up downtown Houlka.
“We’ve already had several businesses open in Houlka because of the Trail and I have heard talk of more to come,” said Kelly. “I have to admit I was skeptical about the trail but it has made a believer out of me. This is a chance for Houlka to make something happen and we need to use it every change we get.”
Kelly pointed out the entire project is funded by the class has cost the city nothing.
The paint the square project should finish up this month.