Downtown Gambier has welcomed the final phase of the Middle Path restoration project, which is in full swing.
Construction work began May 30 after a weekend during which Kenyon and Gambier community members took advantage of an opportunity to transplant the flowers that have long welcomed spring to the village. New flowers will replace those that must be moved.
More than half of the 24 trees along the gravel path between Wiggin and Brooklyn streets have been removed. The College hopes to preserve some of the trees unless the restoration construction compromises their roots. At the conclusion of the project, 30 trees will grace that section of the path, eventually creating a sheltering canopy. Trees targeted for removal are in poor health, Director of Facility Operations Steve Arnett said.
The Middle Path restoration began in 2014 along the northern stretch, from Brooklyn Street to Bexley Hall. Fifty new trees, all oak varieties, were planted in that portion in the spring of 2015. The southern portion, in the main campus area, was restored in 2015. The project was launched primarily to enhance accessibility but also to improve drainage and the aesthetics of the path.
The same combination of a base of stabilized gravel with a loose gravel surface will be used along this section as was used on the north and south parts of campus. The plan includes realignment of secondary paths near the Middle Path Gates to more closely match the crosswalks on Wiggin Street.
The downtown phase is distinguished by the conversion of the old Scott Lane pass-through into a 1,000-square-foot terrace. Ten pole lamps will be added, and the lights strung along tree branches, which tended to damage the trees over time, will be removed. Six new benches are also planned. Electrical outlets and USB ports will be placed near the benches.
“We want people to hang out a little bit,” Arnett said. “This is downtown Gambier. This is where the heart of the village and the heart of the College come together. That’s why the patio space is there. We want to convert this part of the path to a gathering place, not just a transportation route.”
Railroad ties and paving bricks, which had fallen out of alignment, have been removed. An exposed-aggregate sidewalk, 3 feet in width, will border the lawn portion of the path along Gaskin and Chase avenues. Steps and ramps will help pedestrians maneuver from side to side between those streets.
Plans for a sandstone retaining wall along the Gaskin Avenue side of the path have been dropped.
The third phase of the project follows months of work by a committee including alumni, faculty, staff, students and village residents, as well as Matt Girard, a landscape architect from Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which handled the design. The project has been approved by the Gambier Village Council.
The final phase is scheduled to conclude Aug. 12. “This has been a great project for the College and the village,” Arnett said.