Illinois College engineering students reimagine park with inclusive design


A story about Illinois College engineering students presenting to the City Council was featured in an article in the Jacksonville Journal-Courier on April 25, 2024.

To read the full story by Dave Dawson, visit

A vision for a more inclusive Minnie Barr Park in Jacksonville was presented to City Council this week by engineering students at Illinois College.

The 20 students in Charles Riggs' community systems engineering class want to renovate the park so it includes inclusive playground equipment, a flower garden, more sidewalks and better parking.

The class and Riggs, a visiting associate professor of engineering at IC, attended a council workshop meeting Monday, April 22 to explain what they have in mind. The class has been attending council meetings regularly over the past several weeks.

"We're not asking the city for money. We are asking if we have your blessing to continue so we can move ahead and apply for grants we hope would pay for the entire project. We are trying not to have this cost the city anything other than maintenance," said Hannah Lueke, one of the students giving the presentation.

The class has been working with Jamie Headen, president of Benton & Associates, and Adam Fletcher, director of the city's Parks and Lakes Department, as IC is trying to broaden its engineering program.

Riggs said Headen, who is also on the engineering advisory board for IC, attends the class at least once a week and has been a great help to the students with his experience as a consulting engineer.

"We've had tremendous support from Jamie and Adam. Adam has been helpful with talking about after the project is completed and ways to eliminate costly maintenance," Riggs said.

Lueke, Jesus Romero and Larvell Watkins presented the class's ideas to the council before its regular meeting. Lueke said the class assessed community needs and the reason for the location, as well as potential new equipment and estimated costs.

"There are significant numbers of under-served children in the area. We looked at other areas of the city and the west seems served by Duncan Park and the southeast by Nichols Park," Romero said.

An inclusive playground is designed to provide a sensory-rich environment that enables children to develop physically, socially and emotionally. It can also provide more opportunities for kids without disabilities to meet their peers with disabilities.

To read the full story written by the Journal Courier, visit the website.
To listen to an interview with Charles Riggs, visit

About Illinois College

Founded in 1829, Illinois College is a residential liberal arts college fostering academic excellence rooted in opportunities for experiential learning while preparing students for lifelong success. The college is located in Jacksonville, Illinois. With an enrollment of more than 1,000 students, the college offers over 50 undergraduate programs. In 1932, the society of Phi Beta Kappa established a chapter at Illinois College, and it remains one of only 11 in the state.

Illinois College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association.

Visit for more information.

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