The restored portion of Middle Path, from Brooklyn Street north to the road break south of Bexley Hall, opened to pedestrian traffic on Monday, Nov. 3. The remaining stretch, to the steps of Bexley Hall, will open in the near future.
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.”