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.
Kenyon is seeking bids for the path construction and related landscaping, for curb and storm-water drainage work, and for electrical work that includes new light poles and fixtures, said Steve Arnett, director of campus planning and construction. Contracts are expected to be awarded on July 14.
“This is an improvement on what we have without giving up the important aesthetics of the path,” Arnett said. The restored path will be more accessible, retain more gravel, and be more firm underfoot. “You still want the crunch of the gravel, the feel of the gravel, and the look of it,” he said.
Sample walkways were constructed on Middle Path near Bexley Hall in August 2013 and have stood the test of time, feet, weather, and wheels. The sample sections – 20-feet long and 8-feet wide – were built by two Columbus, Ohio, landscaping companies – Environmental Management, Inc. (EMI) and Oakland Nursery – that used a mix of Wisconsin granite gravel and an organic, semi-permeable bonding agent. Those companies will be invited exclusively to compete for the path construction and related landscaping work.
The path will include a 4-inch seam of stabilized gravel with about a half inch, on top, of relatively loose gravel. “When you walk on it, it doesn’t feel like you’re on loose gravel, but it’s not as hard as concrete. This product really is the midpoint between a solid surface and totally loose pea gravel.” The loose gravel that now composes the path tends to scatter under use and under storm water and winter conditions.
Curbs will be added along Chase and Gaskin avenues to help correct storm-water problems and divert winter road salt and chemicals that have damaged trees along the path. A tree survey conducted by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Landscape Architects of Cambridge, Mass., indicated the debilitating stress on some of the trees. Of 52 trees counted along Middle Path between Brooklyn Street and Bexley Hall, 37 will be removed and two will be transplanted elsewhere. Forty-seven new trees will be planted, bringing to 60 the number of trees along the Brooklyn Street-to-Bexley Hall part of the path.
The restoration was recommended in part of the Kenyon College Landscape Master Plan prepared by the landscape architects in 2012.
The construction portion of this phase of the Middle Path restoration will take about two months, Arnett said, and will provide construction insights into how to best proceed with the rest of the restoration. The next phase of the reconstruction will address the path from Wiggin Street south to Old Kenyon during the summer of 2015, followed by the remaining stretch of the path, along the commercial core of the village of Gambier during the summer of 2016.
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. Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates 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.
Erin Salva ’79, director of student accessibility and support services, is less than sanguine about the new approach to the path. Loose gravel can be a challenge for those with disabilities. One wheelchair user, she said, found the test strips on the path “slightly firmer but not much different” than what was encountered along the rest of the path. To maximize access, Salva prefers exposed aggregate, a type of concrete finish that leaves exposed the firmly held gravel on the surface. And she is concerned about the potential for unruly and uneven Middle Path intersections with its arteries of varying surfaces.
Smooth transitions from Middle Path to the different surfaces, including “asphalt, concrete, grass, manhole covers” and other man-made obstacles, are a high priority, Arnett said, and can be accomplished with stabilized gravel that is properly installed. He expects the transition points to be “greatly improved.”