The next step on the road to restoration for Middle Path starts this week with construction of two trial stretches of stabilized gravel near Bexley Hall.
The new sample walkways are on Middle Path itself and are 20-feet long and 8-feet wide, starting about 200 feet south of Bexley, separated by about 25 feet. Sample paths constructed last year were near Old Kenyon and Olin Library on gravel walkways that fed into Middle Path.
“Middle Path is legendary,” said Steven Arnett, director of campus planning and construction. “And it runs through the heart of the most beautiful campus in the world. That’s what we’re talking about.”
Crews from competing companies based in Columbus, Ohio – Environmental Management, Inc. (EMI) and Oakland Nursery – will use a mix of Wisconsin gravel and an organic, semi-permeable bonding agent that is supposed to keep the gravel in place in all weather and under uncounted footfalls. “We want to see how these things do during the winter,” Arnett said.
Surface gravel, pre-mixed with the bonding agent, has arrived in five, 3,000-pound bags from Kafka Granite in Mosinee, Wis., for the trial run. Twelve cubic yards of base gravel will be used to form a 10-inch base that will be topped by a 4-inch-deep seam of stabilized gravel.
The previous sample walkways helped the College determine the right materials and this trial will determine the right installation process by the right contractor, Arnett said. “It’s a tryout, a test. Both are great companies. We want to see how much care they take in terms of the edges. We want clean edges. We also want to see how they work around the trees up there. Let’s see what kind of respect they have for the trees.”
The competing contractors will also be able to assess the scope of the work and determine a proposed budget to restore the entire Middle Path, a project planned to begin in 2014.
Problems with universal accessibility and maintenance triggered interest in the restoration of Middle Path, which was established in 1842 from Wiggin Street to Old Kenyon and extended to Bexley Hall in 1860.
The Middle Path restoration is recommended in part of the Kenyon College Landscape Master Plan prepared by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Landscape Architects of Cambridge, Mass. The landscape architects were hired by the Buildings and Grounds Committee of the Kenyon College Board of Trustees and worked with a steering committee that includes 13 people representing the administration, alumni, faculty, staff, and the village of Gambier.