Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Student in the Greenways Course Lands in NYC and Sees Promotion

Elizabeth Rosselli was visiting her sister in New York City over break, and look what she spotted! Must of resonated with her quickly accumulating knowledge of greenways in Dr. John Davenport's class at Centenary. Thanks for passing it on, Elizabeth!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Baton Rouge also Planning for Greenways and Inspired by Houston's Buffalo Bayou

Right after posting a link to Buffalo Bayou's master plan, here's an article from Today's 2TheAdvocate.com on how Baton Rouge is using it as an inspiration for connecting diverse destinations in their city with greenways and bike paths.

Connecting the City

Advocate business writer
Published: Feb 21, 2010
(click here for orignal)

"When planners, consultants and city officials put together the second phase of Plan Baton Rouge last year, goals included finding a way to link an increasingly lively downtown with neighborhoods to the south, east and north and creating more recreational space.

But it was an article in Landscape Architecture magazine last year that gave Davis Rhorer, executive director of the Downtown Development District, the idea he thinks could do both at once: a roughly three-mile “greenway” of bicycle and walking paths that would run from City Park, through Old South Baton Rouge, under the interstate and north to Memorial Park.

Rhorer had recently floated the idea of using sculptures and enhanced lighting to improve the area under the Interstate 110 overpass, which makes up the western boundary of downtown.

Overpasses are among the most challenging structures for new urbanist planning. They’re harsh, loud, concrete barriers that form a visual and aesthetic wall in the public mind. They are divisive and often avoided by people.

But on the city’s canvass workshop trip to Richmond, Va., in early 2009, Rhorer had seen what the city had done with lighting and sculptures under one of its major overpasses.

“They made a very negative space into a very positive space,” he said. “Around here, people perceive under the interstate as a very negative space.”

And on a trip up to Montreal, Rhorer noticed that the entrances to the city were often marked by sculptures, not signs.

He thought: “You know we need something more than just a ‘Welcome to Downtown’ sign … something more substantial.”

But it was a December profile in Landscape Architecture on Buffalo Bayou, a 15-year project in Houston, that got Rhorer to think about the greenway. Buffalo Bayou enhances 10 square miles of flooding wetlands, part of which cuts through the northern portion of downtown Houston.

Rhorer began to think about how the area under the interstate could be incorporated into a larger trail that could provide the kinds of connections to areas outside of downtown that planners were looking for.

So he and three colleagues at the DDD — Jake Holinga, James Andermann and Gabe Vicknair — set out on bicycles on a December afternoon to find out whether it could.

They started at City Park and headed down Louise Street, past Brooks Park and McKinley Middle Magnet School before turning north under the interstate. Passing through Beauregard Town and along Expressway Park (underneath where I-10 and I-110 meet), they headed west on North Boulevard into the central business district before turning left on Seventh Street. That brought them into Spanish Town to Arsenal Park and the Capitol Park complex and then took them along the Capitol Access Road to Memorial Stadium.

“I wanted to see if we physically could do it,” he said, “and, lo and behold, we could.”

Rhorer said two things struck him along the ride. The first was that the route links six BREC parks and a number of other green public spaces, including the State Capitol and Arsenal Park.

And the South and North boulevard corridors would connect the route to the bike path along the Mississippi River levee and the planned Town Square on North Boulevard, which should be completed next year.

What will be key, Rhorer said, is that the trail would need to connect to places where there are things to do. He noted that BREC is starting a public planning process to overhaul the 40-acre park around Memorial Stadium.

And spots along the route could include active elements, such as skate parks or basketball courts as well as passive ones like benches, lighting, greenery and sculpture.

“I wanted something that could have daily and weekend use,” he said.

The second thing Rhorer noticed is how the route links parts of Baton Rouge that people don’t often think of as being very connected.

“What people don’t realize is this Greenway is a total of 2.7 miles that connects communities together that you don’t think are that close, but they are.”

In addition to the parks, Rhorer pointed to residential developments and initiatives all along the route, from a condo development in Old South at Highland Road and Oklahoma Street, to the city-parish redevelopment authority’s nascent planning efforts in the Northdale and Standard Heights communities.

The Greenway, he said, could help make new development in the adjacent neighborhoods more attractive for developers, businesses and residents.

“This is important for who we are and getting more people to live together,” he said.

The DDD has gotten support for the concept from Mayor Kip Holden. BREC supports the idea as well.

“As a concept, we think it’s a good idea,” said BREC Superintendent Bill Palmer. “Anytime you can connect the parks and destinations together and allow people to access those sites without a vehicle, by walking or bicycles … that’s what many in our community have been telling us to do.”

Rhorer, Holinga and Andermann visited Houston for two days earlier this month to see Buffalo Bayou, bike its trails and talk to Ann Olson, president of the Buffalo Bayou partnership, about the city’s 15-year effort to create it.

The Buffalo Bayou project is far larger than the proposed Greenway for Baton Rouge. And one obvious difference is that the DDD’s idea doesn’t center on a waterway and acres of flooding wetlands.

But the part of the Buffalo Bayou project that attracts a lot of attention — and design awards — is the portion that runs under about a dozen different highways.

The Sabine Promenade is lined with bike paths and walking trails, is heavily landscaped and lit with lights that change from white to blue depending on the phases of the moon.

“What was really a problem for us is that Buffalo Bayou is below grade and under a lot of freeways, especially downtown, so visibility has been a big part of what we tried to address,” Olson said.

Olson said the project has won 12 local, state and international design awards.

“One of the things they (award judges) said is it shows how parks can be developed in very difficult locales,” she said. “They saw that it was pretty much an achievement that we could build something aesthetically pleasing under all these highways.”

The promenade portion cost $12 million, though it was originally budgeted at $15 million. It included $3 million raised privately by the partnership, plus state transportation funds, money from the city and the flood control district.

She said the lighting, which cost $500,000, was intended not only for its aesthetic beauty but to help make people feel safe; the promenade’s design created long sight lines for the same reason.

“The landscape designer,” she said, “wanted people to feel safe.”

Now, she said, residents of a nearby loft development use the trail to walk to work, and nearby theaters generate use of the paths at night.

Olson stressed the importance of public/private and inter-agency partnerships, master planning with public input and a lot of patience.

“This kind of work takes a really, really long time,” she said. “It doesn’t happen overnight, you have to be very patient, very persistent.”

Rhorer said the Greenway here may have to be done in segments, and that it could take years to complete. He noted, though. that much of the route is already publicly owned and the DDD’s experience with the its Wayfinding Signage program downtown was that there wasn’t a lot of difficulty getting rights of way.

Possible funding sources at this point are up in the air, but downtown projects have been successful in the past at pulling in funding from local, state and federal sources. Rhorer said private donations could also be solicited.

The cost, he said, would depend heavily on what kind of amenities the community decides it wants. A modest trail could be a couple million dollars; something more ambitious could cost far more.

The DDD recently took about $5,000 from planning funds under the Visitors Amenity Plan and hired ABMB Engineers to do an engineering assessment of the route, looking at what changes may need to be made along the path, what specifically would be the best route and where the project could be broken into segments.

Rhorer said he sees no reason why work couldn’t begin in the next two or three years."


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Meetings with Mike Strong of Operational Services, and April Dahm of the Downtown Group

Jon Soul, Feico Kempff, Loren Demerath, and Angie Day (Director of the Montessori School for Shreveport) met with Mike Strong, the Director of Operational Services for Shreveport (i.e., the guy in charge of streets, sewer right of ways, and just about everything!) and Wayne Goss, Senior Property Management Specialist. It was a good meeting. Wanna know what Mike said about using drainage ditches and the like for trails and greenways n' such? Then come to our greenways and streets meeting tomorrow night. There was good news and bad news. We'll fill you in on all the "too hot to print" details. (And we'll offer you a cup of tea, too.)

We also had a great ABS general meeting last week. Here's a summary:

Meeting Notes for 2.15.10: Present: Robert Trudeau, Cynthia Keith, April Dahm, Maurice Loridans, Loren Demerath, Feico Kempff, Carolyn Manning

The group talked about Maurice, Loren and others having biked the parade routes of the Centaur and Gemini parades the "Cyclovia" that is offered to bikes before the parades start but after they've been closed to cars.

The group discussed Bill Weiner's proposal that had been published in the Times that day. It noted that though the segment at issue is south of the city so doesn't serve strong transportation needs, it could serve recreation purposes and work to preserve natural habitats as well as increase our opportunities to appreciate them.

Discussed different views of bicyclists and how by law they "own" the road as much as drivers, but de facto, drivers predominate and provide the majority of funds for roads that are accordingly designed to meet their needs more than those of cyclists and pedestrians. To mix cars and cyclists may be legal idealism more than practical reality.

The group discussed the possibility of overusing the a-better-shreveport email group, and how online discussion boards might work better; how some people might be more expressive if they knew it wasn't clogging everyone's inbox. There was agreement about that, though it was also noted that people can observe a discussion of issues that they otherwise wouldn't just via the subject headings; that they don't have to read the whole actual if they don't want to. It was agreed there was a tradeoff, and that online discussion boards also require maintenance. It was noted that as we gain friends on Facebook we can continue to invite people to the ABS FBook group. Can use that discussion forum. Discussed not being able to erase previous posts to that discussion board.

Discussed park potentials in certain downtown spaces and spent time indicating promising places on the map for parks.

The group returned to Weiner's proposal, and Robert suggested we draft a letter to the parish government in support of it, and others agreed.

The group discussed the meeting last week with Paula Hickman, Sharron Swanson, and Caroline Majors, and how the planners of MHS&M can help plot the best route, not simply work with what's already been determined by being bought, or donated. The Downtown group will be working with that firm as well, helping to bring people to the table for planning.

Robert said at the Master Plan meetings people had noted the need for signage and connectivity. April noted Shreveport's music identity internationally, and how it has been coated and forgotten.

Barbara asked about a public performance area in the Master Planning discussions. The Mayor was quoted as saying certain kinds of loud and potentially offensive can turn people off. Barbara said an acoustic or decibel level as well as a no-offensive language set of ordinances could handle that.

It was noted the fun guide has been a success in publicizing events; it was said to contain 80 to 90% of the stuff going on.

April got people up to date on the Downtown Group and the Texas Avenue Community Association (TACA) that includes Allendale, downtown, and the old crosstown neighborhood of which Feritta's is a part, and where the old Blue Goose blues club was. Joe Augustini told April about it. Askari Hinton was in Dallas and web searched the Blue Goose and it turns out it's his family's property. He's now going to build and sell studios for artists and different kinds of housing and build housing that references the historical shotgun style. The TACA is working on getting their non-profit status, and they have a number of board members committed. They've asked for seed money from Holy Cross Church, and are aiming for a phone, and office space, etc. Bonnie Moore has partnered with TACA and is supporting them and would like to start on the revitalization in part through supporting this group. There have been a lot of plans for this area, but nothing has gotten off the ground, primarily because of a lack of community support. TACA is going to have their first meeting at Holy Cross.

Another hopeful sign is that one prominant building on downtown has been bought recently and is being cleaned out and refurbished. April noted that because they want to apply for a historic Main Street program they have to do research to apply for funding. In Grapevine Texas Carolyn saw the downtown become a destination because of the Main Street program. They've restored little old buildings and they now have shops and restaurants and jazz clubs; a place you can go in the evening and just walk and hangout. They close up the streets for festivals and have glass blowers, and then weekly farmers markets.

The Downtown Group's work groups consist of utilities and technology, such as improving the power line situation; communications and p.r. including facebook and twitter and press releases.

Robert mentioned the Freeman and Harris memory group and how they are thinking of a Freeman and Harris Food Festival; Barbara recalled how you could get a pint of alcohol on Sunday, keep it under the table and poor it in your coke while you were eating there. Ah, the good ol' days!

At the end of the meeting Feico
Kempff and Carolyn Manning were voted in as board members of ABetterShreveport.

The next meeting will be on March 1st; with the Greenways/Streets group meeting February 22nd.

Plan for Houston's Buffalo Bayou

Jon Soul learned about the master plan for Houston's Buffalo Bayou the other night and wanted to share about that web site. Indeed, given the history of the bayou for transportation of goods to Houston, it sure is reminiscent of our own Pierre Bayou. Ah, the possibilities! Thanks Jon!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

KTAL story profiles Coates Bluff Cemetary

Erica Bennett's story about the Coates Bluff Cemetery aired last night on KTAL's news. The story features Jon Soul, Jeff Girard, and Bessie Smith, and mentions our own ABetterShreveport prominantly. Thanks Ms. Bennett!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Bill Wiener Re-Introduces a Proposal for a Linear Park and Waterway System to Serve Both Flood Control and Recreation

Today in the Shreveport Times, Bill Weiner, a retired architect and urban planner as well as long-time Shreveport resident, re-introduced a proposal for a linear park and waterway creation that would deal with flood waters while increasing our parks and recreation opportunities. Here's an excerpt:

"Upstream from the lake, along the bayou before it drains into Wallace Lake, there would be a series of smaller new lakes (retention ponds) to hold the flood waters before they emptied into Wallace Lake proper. This series of ponds would be connected, flowing from one to another. Surrounding these new lakes would be a new wooded linear state park with paths from one pond to another for walking, biking, and family picnicking.

"The park could be used educationally as a nature study area, recreationally for fishing or canoeing, and for other appropriate activities. Access to this linear park could be from several points and it should connect with other trails. It was envisioned that this would have been a U.S. Army Corps of Engineer's flood control project with the park to be locally maintained and managed. By retaining runoff in these new ponds, the load in Bayou Pierre would be reduced to its existing carrying capacity, without the need to widen and channelize it.

"The presently proposed widening and channelizing of Bayou Pierre would destroy our unique scenery, wildlife habitat, and special history, that all define us. This desecration is unnecessary as there are better solutions to satisfy the flow without destroying the unique values of our historic Bayou Pierre."

Mr. Weiner goes on to note the possibilities for funding such a project using Haynesville Shale opportunities, as well as other sources. Regardless of how such a project gets funded,

ABetterShreveport was founded on the premise that we should use research on what works in other cities to improve our own city. One consistent set of findings is that the more green space and parks per acre there are in any city, the higher is the quality of life, property values, and economic growth.

And to think some of us can remember fishing and swimming in what are now concreted drainage ditches! So, is it time to redesign? Well, why not?

Downtown Group Forms Teams and Publishes Sign Up Sheet

From April Dahm:

What a great meeting we had last week. It seems as though we are really gearing up to do some big work. We have divided into 8 working groups to get this project off the ground. These groups will change, grow, morph, etc., as we continue on. We will meet again on Wednesday February 22nd from 11:30-12:30 at Artspace in the basement. We are discussing moving the meeting to a location along Texas Ave. as well as expanding meeting times to evenings.
If you were not able to make the meeting last week. Please look over the list of work groups. If you see a group that you would like to work with, email me (April, at downtownabs@gmail.com) the name of the group along with a phone number where group members can reach you.


Personally, I'm signing up for P.R. and Streetscapes and Parks right this minute! Let's go Downtown!

Downtown, Texas Ave., Cohabitat, Best Routes, Greenways all to be topics at tonights meeting

Tonight promises to be an especially interesting and productive. Even have a special someone already on the agenda. We're talking downtown issues, texas ave., cohabitat, recommended bike routes, and a bit of greenways. We'll do some voting and agenda setting in addition to the usual brain storming.
6:15-7:30, room 206 in Centenary Square, across the street from
George's Grill. Enter from the back parking lot and you can't miss

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Jon Soul Speaks to Greenways Class on the Coates Bluff History and "Discovery"

Jon Soul started by describing his childhood in Los Angeles and Shreveport, and recognizing the concreted Bayou Pierre that reminded him of the concreted rivers in L.A. He noted that the concreted river didn't give him a sense of a waterway providing wildlife. He moved to Shreveport as an adult and lived a block away from the bayou. Later, once his children were of school age and attending Montessori and he would take his children to look at the Anderson Bayou lake. Later, as a middle school instructor, he took students to paddle the in the bayou lake, and found it was a channel going through Wright Island. He didn't consciously make a connection between that and Pierre Bayou. He then went to the new map room at the LSUS library and was shown maps and realized that the bayou was part of a channel that went from the Red River to Pierre Bayuo, and right by where his house is now. In the meantime Jon joined ABetterShreveport, a group that was talking about greenways, trals, and bike paths and began to look at the area as place for a trail. He also had convinced the school to allow him to take the middle schoolers on an annual adventure trip to have outdoor education experiences. Eventually he took them south of the city and Jon said it is among the most beautiful waterways in he's ever seen in Louisiana.

Jon showed the presentation he made with his middle school students, available for your viewing pleasure [to be inserted here].

Jon Soul is Director of Outdoor Education at the Montessori School for Shreveport. He was a Geography major and Geology minor at the Univsersity of Minnesota Duluth, where he was also a kyak instructor for years and has a paddling background that includes whitewater river kyaking and long-distance sea kyaking.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Centenary Students Give Student Perspective at Last Night's ABS Greenways Meeting

A quick summary of last night's meeting:

Present were Mallory Coburn, Sarah Savage, John Davenport, Loren Demerath, Carolyn Manning, and Feico Kempff.

We were unusually good last night at creating a list of realistic, short-term to-do's (thanks Mallory!). These were aimed at the proposed new greenway section from Alexander to East Elmood.
Among the tasks:
  • contacting Matthew Linn to ask him to be a leison with the owner of land who he happens to know (Loren)
  • drawing up a document that describes how no harm would come to the owner by leasing the land to a greenways land trust.
  • Carolyn's been working a lot on the greenways publicity package and will show that soon, but to allow her to finish that, Loren will be sending her the summary of the research on how property values increase and crime rates decrease with the addition of greenways or bike paths to a neighborhood.

Mallory mentioned that painting crosswalks at the streets that intersect with the bayou/ditch would help with any trail; and maybe a flashing light to cause cars to notice and stop.

Sarah noted that Centenary could sponsor educational sessions for biking safety and etiquette; also recommend routes to students for getting around the city; especially for getting to Target, Barnes and Noble, etc. Could be for elementary, jr. high schools, etc., could do it at the gold dome parkinng lot; could then take them outside the parking lot to show them it's o.k. To ride. Mallory said if I'm awaren of a rudimentary path/trail that's safe and away from traffic; asking or not for permission but just making the trails. Establishing trails would be useful to show people where to go; otherwise you're caught in an unsafe ploace.

John asked which route would be best to establish first? Pierre Bayou from Oakley to 70th was noted; easiest to do.

Sarah noted most students don't have their bikes here; Carolyn said the culture could change. Mallory said if we have a trail it would facilitate use. There are groups that could be asked to use a trail, that could then...

It was mentioned that a meet-up ride event could help establish a trail along whatever section of a clear, wide drainage ditch area we choose.

As others have noted, the presence of bike racks downtown and around the city could get people thinking about riding around town.

Feico had just come from Metropolitan Planning Commission meeting on Greenways and green systems; MPC has engaged Goody-Clancy to update their development for the next 20-30 years; They discussed greenways and parks and how they come about through donations and developers who are required to set aside land; often don't come about through planning. Most of the implementation will take place through zoning. The changes will come about through ordinances. One of the problems in the older part of the city is large trees falling or being cut, and an ordinance could make people to have to replace trees if they cut them down.

Carolyn described the ordinances used around Dallas, and how they help maintain the value of nieghborhoods. Planting bradford pears vs. trees that canopy can hurt the neighborhood.

Tomorrow, members of the Coates Bluff Greenway team will be meeting with Sharron Swanson and Paula Hickman to explore the ways Sharron's firm might be able to help us, and how we can create an organization to handle the funding for the project.

Next week, we'll meet about where to paint sharrows for biking, Greenway Day, and as well other topics and events related to making our city more bikable and walkable!

Growth and Institutional Ghange Addressed by Dr. Davenport in his Greenways Class at Centenary College

Dr. John Davenport lectured today on “Society and Nature: Understanding the Human Landscape”

Here are the notes:

Population growth in the U.S. Was depicted; southwest, southeast, northeast showed high growth; counties in the panhandle of florida are among the fastest growing in the country.

Examining the Phoenix ares, Sun City and Mesa are “galactic commuter zones” and how growth changed the area. Pumping water out of the Colorado River into the suburbs led to great growth, particularly for Mesa.

Quoting and paraphrasing from the NPR story done on the area's growth:

90% of Phoenix has been built since 1950. The expansion leapfrogged into agricultural lands. Developers sold image of outdoor living with patios and warm weather. Air conditioning made it livable in the summer. “The goal was to get as many people as possible to live there.” Mesa is as big as Pittsburgh, and Tempe as big as Kansas City. A consequence has been that the average temperature has gone up 11 degrees in the last ten years. “Soon there'll be a day when it doesn't go below 100 for 24 hours.”

The story raised the question, though, of whether the city needs a dense center, or whether sprawl is what people actually want. It gives them a yard and space. And that's a culturally valued lifestyle.

Gentrification is often tied to mixed outcomes; therefore, provisions needed for maintaining certain portion of mixed housing.

North Little Rock has attempted to bring in money through conferences, pro baseball and basketball.

Homeowners in Argenta AR, formed together to change the neighborhood. NeighborWorks is a homeowner program. Argenta Community Development Corporation has been sucessful 'cuz it's “never taken it's eye off the ball”.

Dr. John then shifted to to talk about the social processes that influence change.

Institutions make it happen, by giving resources and constancy.

But two misconceptions:

  1. Ideas and values are unchanging
  2. Education is key to changing behavior

But that's not the only way to create change; Institutions can change behavior by changing the landscape, rules, events, etc.

Prior to the industrial revolution, “nature” was seen as daily, immediate basis of agricultural production and lievelihoods.

America's twin inventions—rapid urbanization and rapid movility—opened up new conceptions of nature during late-19th and 20th Centuries. More downtime, leisure time and disposable income, wealthy and middle-class citizens turned outward from industrial city, in hope of witnessing a new aesthetic of the sublime—a wild, rugged landscape.

An alternative approach stresses our connection to nature in the places where we live and work.

Refashioning home landscapes is necessary component of preserving far away wilderness settings.

Institutions involved the norms, rules, and routine behaviors that guide human activity.

Changing human behavior, then, is a matter of both education and understanding how institutions work, change, and/or don't change.

So, e.g., having a land trust is an institutional structure that makes greenways and routines possible, as is blogs, meetup.org, etc.

Behaviors become institutionalized or taken for granted as the way things are done. But those patterns can be broken or changed by other institutional actions.

Attempts to change institutions often encounter resistance because change affects the interests of many different actors. Power, or the ability of individuals and groups to influence others, is an important aspect to institutional change.

But change is necessary, since institutions often don't allign harmoniously with biophysical and social realities. Also, many institutions may not be sufficiently flexible and adaptable to function for the community as conditions as change.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Centenary Student student, Derek Dalzell wrote me:

"Thought you might like to see this. this is the greenway next to my house in michigan that i ride atleast 4-6 times a week for either fun or to get around the city. Thought maybe one day this could be in Shreveport. Don't know if this is exactly what you are going for, but, it tends to suite my community very well."

This is exactly what we're going for -- one form of it anyway. Note how it follows a utility route; a common practice in greenway design.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

New Greenway, Cylcovia, and other topics at last meeting

In attendance at the last regular meeting: Matthew Linn, John Inman, Maurice Loridans, Loren Demerath, Carolyn Manning, Cynthia Keith.

The group discussed:
  • the Coates Bluff greenway route
  • sharrow painting
  • group riding and greenway events
  • cohabitat's planned shared workspace
  • what would attract young educated people to move to Shreveport
  • a new stretch of greenway from Alexander to Gregg St.
After updating the group on the past weekend's trail plotting, Matthew mentioned that Robert Vienitie is the engineer for the Riverscape development. We discussed the different route options, and whether or not there needs to be a path through development the development at all.

Maurice noted that the paint on the sharrows was not going to last and that we need funds for lasting paint. Matthew mentioned that that city officials had told him they could help us find appropriate paint.

Carolyn has joined GRITS (Girls riding in the streets) and will report on what its like.

Maurice talked about our naturally occurring Cyclovia moment that's approaching for the two major parades. (The one pictured here is in Bogota.) The area in front of Shreve City is only part of the route that has to ridden around, but there people can use the westbound lane freely. Maurice and wife Valerie will be wearing costumes, and the Demeraths are planning on riding as well. The group won't officially meet anywhere, but it does have to be done before the parade starts, and you've got all afternoon to do it. (Loren has since scheduled a meeting time at meetup.org; sign up there and see it under Carolyn's group "Urban Bikers".)

John Inman, a student at LSUS who commutes to class by bike, volunteered to help with painting, and will also share his favorite routes on the map of recommended bike routes we've been compiling for NLCOG. John has also volunteered to be interviewed by KSCL about his bike communting to LSUS and work.

(For some reason the group then discussed the association of ADHD with lead... go figure.)

It was noted that Cohabitat's first "Jelly" was well recieved at Columbia Cafe; 30 people attended. Carolyn noting she plans on leasing the group room when she gives seminars. It was said the anticipated rate was $24 per day, which would give one a desk, free access to coffee or keg beer or whatever they have on hand; access to a quiet room, and a group room. Examples given included someone who does contractor work and doesn't want to meet with people at his home. There are attourneys who rent space where the executive suites are in the Beck building, but those are closed spaces there, and not the shared open space that Cohabitat would offer and that would invite more collaboration and create more sense of community.

Carolyn received a call from a small tech firm that wanted to know what there was for young people to do in Shreveport. She mentioned Mardi Gras, restaurants, bayous and fishing and hunting, the Norton art gallery, Sciport. Loren mention that poker tournaments are now a real draw for educated people who are not gamblers in the classic sense of betting against the house; poker's popularity has become a national phenomenon.

The group then discussed the new greenway behind Centenary. Matthew talked about the trails he used to walk along Pierre Bayou between Alexander, Elmwood, and Gregg St. The group examined the map and became excited about the possibilities of this trail, part of which goes through another urban forest. Loren later communicated the possibility to the head of the Centenary Environmental Association, Malari Coburn, who already expressed interest in creating a trail along the bayou between Alexander and Kings that runs behind the Centenary athletic fields, shown here.

Carolyn talked about starting a meet-up group (which she did the next morning, and which Loren has since joined). One of the purposes would be to start to meet at a certain time to go on a ride together. Allowing people opportunities to bike together lets them experience biking in Shreveport in a very safe, secure, socially enjoyable way.

Carolyn and Cynthia expressed concern that Greenway Day won't happen because it takes time to plan it. Matthew says it'll happen, not to worry. Loren expressed confidence in Ian's organizational abilities based on his track record.

Next week's meeting will be Greenway focused, with students from Centenary possibly attending.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Patches, Corridors, and Matrixes in Making Greenways

Dr. John threw out his back over the weekend and is playing hurt today. But, it might make him looser and score more than ever during his lecture. Sometimes that happens.

Any landscape can be described as a mosaic of repeating patterns of patches and corridors, and the matrix within which these elements are positioned.

The ratio of elements to each other is important for how the environment is able to sustain organisms. For example, two patches of forest may be able to be separated at some distance and have certain animals use both patches, especially if there is a corridor of forest linking them.

Generalist species tend to be able live near humans and adapt well to us, e.g., deer and cayotes vs. bobcats. Edge generalists can utilize corridors. Others, such as Blue Jays, that need to use forest cover to escape Cooper's Hawk, wouldn't venture out into the corridors. But, "stepping stone" habitat patches can be introduced to help such species. Otherwise, a "unified metapopulation" might become isolated and would tend to inbreed and die. On the other hand, corridors can spread disease, so one needs to know about the species one is connecting through a new corridor or stepping stones.

The patches may not be homogeneous themselves, though. Within patches there is a diversity of flora and areas, or of wet and dry lands.

Functional connectivity - how does the connectivity of elements help a species function, e.g, spread their genes.
(The inverse, "functional isolation" - might also benefit a species in terms protection from disease, etc.)

There is a point at which fragmenting a patch can be suboptimal for a species; that's the point where one has fragmented it's "home range". If that's done, the species may be able to limp along for a while, but it won't take much to kill it off from there.

E. O. Wilson's Theory of Island Biogeography...

The first sentence of a book Dr. John is reading by Humphries is: "Most of the interesting things in life happen at the boundaries"

Raperian zones are transition zones between patches, such as between forest interior and meadow, stream, bayou, etc. They offer:
  • structural complexity (to live)
  • dependable water (to drink)
  • rich soils and biomass for food (to eat)
There are important areas. E.g., 80% of species in upland Arizona depend on raparian corridors.

Often small landowners can collectively have the cummulative effect of gragmented home ranges and hurting ecosystems.

Cohabitat resonates with ABetterShreveport

At last night's ABS meeting Matthew Linn reported that Cohabitat's first "Jelly" was well-recieved by the 30 people who attended last Saturday morning. Indeed, at the same meeting Carolyn Manning happened to mention that she plans on using their group space for her seminars. Last week April Dahm and Loren Demerath met with Mark Hand, John Grindley, Stuart Clason, and Blake Burris to hear the "Cohabitat" concept. If you want to know what it's all about, and how it can make Shreveport better, read on.

Cohabitat in Shreveport will be a non-profit organization, interested in giving people a place to work with similarly trained or interested others. Typically, shared workspaces like cohabitat have been used by creative professionals looking for a place to get work done with the focus that an office provides outside their own homes. These people are also looking for the kind of community that offices often provide, and out of which relationships and collaborative efforts can emerge. They are often relaxed atmospheres. Stuart said, "I wanted to work at a place where I could bring my dog and where there was a kegerator." Beyond the possibility of beer (hey, don't knock Stuart's dream, Charles Dickens did a lot of his writing while sipping pints at the pub!) and beyond the possibilities offered simply by working alongside others who have might have complementary skills, shared workspaces facilitate collaboration by hosting "jellies," where folks have the chance to present their work and ask for feedback or advice.

Why would we care about this? Especially those of us who aren't looking for a place to use our laptops and cell phones? Because Sociological research tends to indicate that increased mobility (as in an open plan of shared work space in contrast to rooms of rented office suites) yields greater connectivity (as in collaborative work vs. working alone at home), which in turn leads to greater productivity and economic opportunities. Sounds like Cohabitat's success would lead to a better Shreveport. We're rooting for you Cohab!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Animal paths followed for north section of Coates Bluff trail

Another group of us this past Sunday continued the task of plotting a trail from the Montessori School up to Stoner Ave. Jeff Jeff Girard, Maurice Loridans, Ian Webb, Jon Soul, Will Smith, Janine Demerath, Loren Demerath and Feico Kempff all pitched in.

Here, Jon Soul points to an animal path.

A bit further on, Gus Demerath points to a large earth mound, the humble abode of some creature that no doubt never attended Magnet, even living so close!

At various points we were torn as to which side of the water to go on. One idea is to have a "loop" where a low traffic, more primitive trail is on one side, with a higher traffic, better packed trail on the other. Of course, where it actually goes on the eastern portion would be at the discretion of the Riverscape Developers. Where ever it ends up being, though, people living near it are likely to value it.

Pictures don't do it justice, but it's really a beautiful setting. This shot is looking over the bayou pond to the high school through the trees. Turtles, fish, snakes, foxes, beavers, nutria, who knows what else. All part of the beautiful natural world!

Recyclers Activate for the Highland Parade

Wanna do good for mother earth while you revel at the Highland Parade this year? Consider joining Andy and Jon. They said they had a blast doing it last year and were astounded at how much they collected!

This year, the mighty Highland Parade celebrates its 25th anniversary on February 14 (start time 2 PM) with the timely yet tasteful theme of “Highland Goes Green.” To that, Dear Reader, we say, “OK.” Once again, Jon and I arrive modestly (albeit with our hats set at a rakish tilt) to ask for your assistance and to spew forth offers you can’t beat. Said rewards include:

  1. We are once again coordinating recycling efforts during parade staging (10 AM – 2 PM) at Byrd High School and are looking for some folks to help us with that. Local recycler, Hughes Recycling, is accepting everything that we collect, so nobody has to take anything home—our job will be to staff a recycling tent and to help the parade participants recycle their stuff (breaking down cardboard boxes, loading up the collection bins, etc). It’s pretty cool to hang out during the staging process, and if you’ll just smile at folks, you might even score a free burger or two.
  2. However, because we are thinking about you the whole time, we have also reserved a slot in the parade for a pedestrian (in the walking sense) float. We are not committed to participate, but we have the option to be a part of the parade with a float that has no motorized vehicles (e.g., we could walk, bike, crawl, etc). Should we do this, kids would be welcome to participate. We have no formal concept in mind, so if anyone has any ideas, we’re interested. Being thinkin’ flellers, we have already considered the obvious stuff for a green-themed outing—recycling-bin drill teams, compost bins on wheels, etc--but we would be willing to consider your ridiculous idea as well.
This offer is for a limited time only; hurry and act now before the supplies run out. We ask that anyone who is interested in either (or both) of these activities contact me or Jon and let us know. We are committed to doing the first of these, and if there is sufficient interest, we could do the second as well. (There is a chance—although uncertain at present—that Montessori School parents could earn some service hours for the setup).

So what’s this about the parade happening on Valentine’s Day, you ask. Won’t that be a scheduling conflict? Well, Mr. Pitt/Ms. Jolie, we really don’t think so. Those of you with kids are certainly not going to be doing much Valentining on a Sunday afternoon, I’ll tell you that. And if your Valentine’s Day plans include weeping all sad and lonely by the cabin door, we can help with that too. Contact us; we would love to see you there. (And if you know someone who may be interested, please forward this email to him/her, as we have worked with weird folks in the past and are unafraid to do so again).

Andy Goldthwaite: cgoldthwaite@comcast.com

Jon Soul: jonksoul@gmail.com