May 26, 2016
The first step in the last phase of the Middle Path restoration project begins Monday, May 30.
The construction project in downtown Gambier will follow a weekend during which Kenyon and Gambier community members may dig up flowers that have long welcomed spring to the village. From 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Saturday, May 28, and Sunday, May 29, flowers may be dug up along the path. Alumni returning for Reunion Weekend are welcome to carry home a tangible part of their Middle Path memories. New flowers will replace those that must be moved.
Beginning Monday, at least 13 of the 24 trees along the gravel path between Wiggin and Brooklyn streets will be removed. The College hopes to preserve 11 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 have long since fallen out of alignment, will be 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 Chase and Gaskin avenues.
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.
March 9, 2015
Environmental Management, Inc., will get a jump start this week on tree maintenance along Middle Path in South Campus.
The landscaping company, headquartered in Plain City, Ohio, is poised to start the second phase of Middle Path restoration project by trimming tree branches along the path during spring break, when pedestrian traffic is light. A landscaping crew will bring a boom truck to the path on Wednesday, March 11, and complete the job on Friday, March 13, Director of Facility Operations Steve Arnett said. Tree limbs will be collected immediately in a dump truck.
After the branch trimming, the three-year Middle Path restoration project will continue in May, from just south of the Middle Path gates to the doorstep of Old Kenyon. The restoration is intended to improve universal access and reduce maintenance costs while preserving the look, feel and sound of the path. The project brings to the path a 10-inch, gravel-base layer under a 4-inch seam of stabilized granite gravel with a loose-gravel surface. A semi-permeable bonding agent is used to stabilize the gravel.
Landscapers will begin the path restoration on May 26, after planting 49 trees along the portion of the path that was restored last year between Brooklyn Street and Bexley Hall. At least one tree along the south section of the path - at the northwest corner of the intersection of Middle Path and the walkway between Hanna and Leonard residence halls - will be removed during the next phase of the project. Four new trees will be planted. The College now counts 98 trees along the path in the new construction area.
The restoration work is expected to take 10 weeks, concluding at the end of July. As work progresses, beginning just south of the gates, wooden bridges will be built as east/west overpasses at four points. The finished path will require about three weeks to cure before foot traffic is allowed, Arnett said.
As part of the project, 15 replacement light poles and 14 replacement benches will be installed along the path.
The third phase of the restoration project, including the gates and moving north to Brooklyn Street, is planned for 2016.
October 31, 2014
The restored portion of Middle Path, from Brooklyn Street north to the road break south of Bexley Hall, will open to pedestrian traffic on Monday, Nov. 3. The remaining stretch, to the steps of Bexley Hall, will open in 10 to 12 days.
The project that began in July is the first of three phases intended to address long-standing path problems with universal access and maintenance. The restored portion includes a seam of granite gravel and an organic, semi-permeable bonding agent that will stabilize the path. A layer of fine gravel will emerge as footfalls and weather loosen it from the surface.
“It needs to mature, needs to weather, needs to be exposed to traffic and time,” said Zachary Cooper ’00, Maintenance Division special projects manager. “This will crunch under your feet. And it should prevent rutting from bicycle and wheelchair wheels. This marries the ethos of Middle Path with accessibility.”
More than 45 trees, including sugar maples and red and bur oaks, will be planted along the restored path in the spring. When planted, the new trees will be roughly 12-to-15 feet tall with trunks about 3 inches in diameter. They are expected to reach as high as 50 feet over the years. This portion of the project also improved drainage and added curbs, providing a healthier environment for the new trees. Forty-seven distressed and dying trees were removed at the onset of the project.
Five benches will also be added in the spring. Cooper asked that people, for now, refrain from walking on the newly planted grass along the sides of the path.
The next phase of the restoration will address the path on South Campus in summer 2015. The final phase, along the commercial core of Gambier, is set for summer 2016.
Middle Path was established in 1842 from Wiggin Street to Old Kenyon and extended to Bexley Hall in 1860. The restoration was recommended as part of the Kenyon College Landscape Master Plan prepared by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Landscape Architects of Cambridge, Mass., in 2012. 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 included 13 people representing the administration, alumni, faculty, staff and the village.
“As an alumnus, I understand the idea of Middle Path,” Cooper said. “It defines Kenyon. And being part of this project, I know this is the right thing to do. Middle Path must be accessible to everyone.”
July 30, 2014
Landscape architects Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates of Cambridge, Massachusetts, prepared these renderings describing the plight of trees along the northern portion of Middle Path now undergoing restoration and picturing how the completed project will look in the near future. Download the two-page renderings (PDF).
July 17, 2014
The 55 new trees that will line the restored part of Middle Path from Brooklyn Street north to Bexley Hall will arrive in the spring.
Forty-seven distressed trees were taken down this week as part of the Middle Path restoration plan that will bring stabilized gravel to Kenyon’s iconic central artery. The Norway maples came down in response to a 2011 assessment survey by arborists at Davey Tree that showed them to be unhealthy. “The ones that were there had real
trouble growing because of road salt and soil conditions,” said Ed Neal, sustainability director. “They just weren’t the right ones to be planted there.”
In the spring, the felled trees will be replaced by 55 sugar maples and a variety of oak trees including red oak and bur oak. According to Steve Arnett, director of campus planning and construction, spring is the best time to plant these species in order for them to thrive. The new trees will be roughly 12-to-15 feet tall with trunks of about 3 inches in diameter when planted and are expected to reach as high as 50 feet over the years.
The cutting of the trees coincides with the beginning of the Middle Path restoration project. The next phase is to improve drainage along that section of the path, which will make a healthier environment for the new trees. Changing the elevation of Middle Path necessitated taking all of the distressed trees out at once, Arnett said.
Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman acknowledges that the number of trees – 1 percent of the campus tree population on campus – and their proximity to one another makes the area where they were cut look barren. But he pointed out that trees along other parts of Middle Path will not be clear cut because most are healthy. “This is the only section where it’s going to look like clear cutting,” he said.
While it will take time for the new trees to grow, Arnett said, “In the end it will be worth it. You’ll get Middle Path back. You’ll get trees back.”
Kenyon has thousands of trees on its campus, and the Arbor Day Foundation has recognized Kenyon as a Tree Campus USA. The honor is achieved by meeting foundation standards for sustainable campus forestry, including a tree-advisory committee, a campus tree-care plan, dedicated spending on the tree program, sponsorship of student service-learning projects, and observance of Arbor Day. “We really do see the trees as a valuable asset to the College,” Neal said.
July 1, 2014
The restoration of Middle Path is expected to launch this month, bringing stabilized granite gravel to a stretch of the path from Brooklyn Street north to Bexley Hall. Read the Along Middle Path story.