Kenyon is poised to embark on the third and final phase of the restoration of Middle Path, Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman told the Kenyon College Board of Trustees at its Oct. 22-23 meeting in Gambier. The project includes the installation of stabilized gravel from the College Gates to Brooklyn Street to create new uses for the path in the center of Gambier, enhance accessibility and provide better drainage.
“The primary reason for redoing this section is to make it more accessible,” Kohlman said following the board meeting. “The secondary reason is that the current landscape has become outdated and is deteriorating.”
The second phase of the project, on South Campus, wrapped up over the summer, bringing stabilized gravel, new benches and lights to the path. Path and curb work on the first phase, from Brooklyn Street north to Bexley Hall, concluded in 2014, and 50 trees, all oak varieties expected to eventually reach 50 feet or more in height, were planted along that stretch in spring of 2015.
Kenyon will use the same combination of a base of stabilized gravel with a loose gravel surface on this section as was used on the north and south parts of campus. The plan includes realignment of secondary paths near the gates to more closely match the crosswalks on Wiggin Street. A section of Scott Lane that crosses Middle Path in the downtown village is intended to be closed to create a gathering place called a café terrace.
Most of the 28 trees in the central section will come down because they will not be able to withstand the restoration, although at least a few of the newer trees may be transplanted. When the project is complete, 32 trees will thrive in the area. Popular flower gardens along the path in the village will be restored.
The plan has been reviewed by the Gambier Village Planning and Zoning Commission and will be reviewed with the full Village Council in November. The final request for approval of the project will be submitted to the Planning and Zoning Commission in February or March. Construction is scheduled to begin after Reunion Weekend in 2016.
The third phase of the restoration project comes after 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 committee met several times over the summer to discuss the best options for this section of the path.
College Historian Tom Stamp ’73 sits on the Gambier Village Council and also was on the Middle Path restoration committee. “I think it is going to be really wonderful and is going to bring major positive change to downtown Gambier,” he said of the plans. “It will attract more people to downtown and encourage them to stay for longer periods of time.”
The closing of Scott Lane to create the café terrace creates a gathering place and a venue for outdoor dining. “We conducted a traffic study and found that many people don’t use the cut-through,” Kohlman said. “People on the committee focused on eliminating the awkward traffic moments like this. It will also improve safety.”
The 40-by-38.5-foot café terrace is one of the most exciting areas of the restoration, said Tim Broderick ’16, a student representative on the committee. “There’s no real gathering space in downtown Gambier now,” said the philosophy major from Cincinnati. “This will be good for the Gambier community as well as the Kenyon community.”
In addition to the café terrace, a retaining wall of locally harvested sandstone on the Gaskin Street side of the path will even the slope of the center part of the space. Benches set on angles from the path, rather than parallel to the path as now configured, will provide more areas for interaction.
“It will be an improvement to the campus, and it will make it more accessible for people,” said Steven Vaden, grounds manager. “This surface stays good and firm even during rain.”