Section: archive

Middle Path accessibility to improve

By Staff

“Re-assert the primacy of the pedestrian.”

“Establish clear path hierarchy and materiality.”

“Preserve the essential character of Middle Path.”

These are among the Middle Path Project’s guiding principles, as devised by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Inc. (MVVA), the landscape architecture firm Kenyon hired to lead the multi-year initiative. The project’s construction, which will include a total resurfacing of the path, will begin next summer at the earliest.

“Because Middle Path is such an artery for the whole campus,” Grounds Manager Steve Vaden said, “[the project’s] goal is to provide a more stable surface for foot traffic.”

The College is now testing what will likely become Middle Path’s new surface. But, before they commit to the product ラ a collection of substances including crushed granite and a stabilizing agent called Envirobond ラ they’re waiting to see how it withstands a Gambier winter.

“When the gravel goes down, it’s not just loose pebbles, it’s not concrete. It’s a bonding agent that helps the material maintain stability so it won’t wash off if we get a rain,” Steve Arnett, director of campus planning and construction, said.

The Envirobond, according to Arnett, “does not allow this topping compound to wash away and pile up … and it keeps it at a very smooth elevation. ナ [It] is what mitigates all those pitfalls that come with loose pea gravel.”

The three test paths installed last year on south campus did not perform well, according to Arnett. He wants to ensure the two new test paths, installed in August near Bexley Hall, can handle the elements better.

“I go by and walk over those mockups half a dozen times a day, just to keep checking them out, to see how they’re doing,” Arnett said. “I’m very happy so far.”

“It would be easier to maintain if we just went through and did concrete like all the other paths, but that’s not the intent or the goal of the project,” Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman said. “It should kind of have the same feel and similar colors to what we currently have.”

At the moment, though, the test paths look cleaner cut and distinctly less gravelly than the rest of Middle Path. Arnett said he hoped the underlying aggregate would break up over time to create an aesthetic more like that of the current Middle Path. “We didn’t want it to look like a driveway or a road,” Arnett said.

The project’s impact on the root systems of the trees lining Middle Path is another necessary consideration.

“We didn’t find that the roots had penetrated under Middle Path,” Vaden said. “We’re assuming that, due to the compaction of the soil that was there, the tree roots more or less kind of grew parallel to the path.”

While the restoration process may not negatively affect Middle Path’s trees, the College still plans to uproot some. In 2011, evaluators from the Davey Resource Group concluded that 25 of the 157 trees within 50 feet of Middle Path were in poor condition or worse and should be removed.

Arnett said the College “would address those trees that are along Middle Path when we do this [project].”

The new Bexley test paths are identical to each other but were installed by different companies, both out of Columbus. “They’re putting together budget numbers, which we will have ready for this fall to discuss and present in terms of what that total project would be worth,” Arnett said. Arnett and Kohlman would not estimate how much the project will cost, but Kohlman claimed it would be “a lot.”

“It’s not just the path. There’s drainage and curb work and change-of-elevation work that has to be done,” Kohlman said.

Given the frequent use Middle Path endures, especially during the academic year, the project organizers said they want to stagger the installation process in order “to create not such a disruption to everybody’s life on campus,” according to Vaden. He added that the College would install the new path in segments: from Wiggin Street to Old Kenyon; from Brooklyn Street to Bexley Hall; and, lastly, the downtown area.

The project itself is only one part of MVVA’s vision for a greener, cleaner Kenyon ラ they also recommended planting more trees and switching to sleeker benches and trash cans.

“They did identify several critical projects, things that should be addressed,” Kohlman said. “But, right now, we’re focused on Middle Path.”

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