Saturday, May 23, 2009

People's Path Update

This week we found out that the Powers That Be had a different plan for the People's Path across Pennsylvania Park. Rather than coopting the will of the people by paving over the natural, foot-worn diagonal, as we suspected in our previous post, they have resorted to repressing the rightful and democratic will of the people by resodding that venerable trail worn by the feet and the perseverance of the masses.

I note that even the mighty Powers-That-Be were unwilling to provoke the public ire further and wisely did not take any additional futile measures like roping off the fresh sod or posting Stay off the Grass signs.

In the end, these misguided tactics will be defeated as the people continue to vote with their feet. Before long, the People's Path will rise again in all its revolutionary and muddy glory!


Anonymous said...

I think you're reading way too much symbolism into all of this.

But on the other hand, if you want to discuss government tyranny - I can tell you that paving that path would have come with it's own expensive set of restraints.

The current path is at a slope that exceeds acceptable slopes per the American Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines. In order to make it an accessible path, a switchback ramp on the order of the one accessing Bayfront Park would likely be necessary. So, a healthy price, in terms of aesthetic cost, as well as actual financial cost, would have been necessary to pave the "people's path" in such a manner as to avoid lawsuits.

I like how these paths develop and get the implicit symbolism. I've heard that the University of Illinois took this approach when establishing pedestrian walks on their campus: the bare minimum was paved, wear patterns were established by students, faculty, and visitors, and those wear paths were later paved. A pretty novel approach.

Keep up the blog, I really enjoy it.

Marty Scott said...

Thanks for the comment. I was being playful with the symbolism but I clearly had mixed feelings about the prospects of paving the path. All specific projects contain cost issues and political considerations that must be take into account when moving from fantasy to reality. However, I think re-sodding the path was may have been the worst alternative. I understand that the city now has more control over the park because some long standing issues with the state and railway interests have been resolved. Perhaps we will see a rethinking of the whole park and some plans for improvement. If so, I would like to see some recognition of the historical significance of the park. I understand that that space exists in our downtown because it was once a switching yard for the many trains that used to bring tourists here before the Interstates.

By the way, I received other comments from more shy folks who did not want to post here also mentioning the urban planning theory of waiting for useage wear patterns to develop and letting the people's choice influence the location of sidewalks.

Keep reading and contributing your thoughts and ideas!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for responding!

I detected a note of playfulness in your symbolism. I believe you are correct about the city's level of control over the space. My understanding is that the state still owns the space, but that the city is trying to acquire the rail right-of-way to make a walkable corridor from the neighborhoods to the south, northeast to Bay View. The north end is in particular need, the current patchwork of sidewalks leaves a lot to be desired. It's unfortunate being at the mercy of the state here, but we can only hope this comes to fruition.

I've heard that this acquisition was discussed once before, culminating with the state threatening to fence the downtown section of rail - in response to liability concerns!

I'm not in disagreement with you regarding sodding over the path; undoubtedly the wear pattern will return. I'm hoping the city knows something new about the rail right-of-way and that perhaps this was a short-term solution. An interesting town in which to live. Which, by the way, is due in no small measure to the presence of galleries like yours.

Keep up the excellent work!

Anonymous said...

I still find myself walking along the path through the park. After doing it for over 20 years it is hard to stop. But I did not see a sign.
Why do they think people will stop cutting across the park? I think they should have just up graded the path. As you cut through the park at that angle the park and the surroundings appear very beautiful. You feel the essence of the park. Why fix it, if it is not broke.