Thursday, December 13, 2012

This Monday Night: Shreveport Greenway Proposals and Holiday Party!

Yes, two good reasons to come to the ABS meeting Monday night.  Here's the story:

Dr. Bruce Sharky
ABETTERSHREVEPORT GOES TO L.S.U.: As some readers of this blog may recall, Loren Demerath was requested by Dr. Bruce Sharky (an expert in greenway design) to attend presentations of greenway proposals for Shreveport.  Previously, Dr. Sharky had been alerted to the interest in Shreveport Greenways by the National Park Service, and through the grant won by ABS to work with the NPS to the end of creating a master plan of greenways (which, by the way, can be any combination of nature trails, bike paths--great for healthy transportation, as well as fun recreation).  Accompanying Loren to view the presentations in Baton Rouge was Ian Webb, a founding member of ABS, as well as one who's had experience in creating a network of greenways in Roanoke, Virginia.

         Dr. Sharky pointed out that the following proposals and materials haven't been gathered together to create an overall narrative and full plan.  The students completed this work in one month as part of a class, and there is work left to be done to create something with fuller impact.  We're hopeful that could be done by finding funding for a graduate student to work on that task during the spring semester.  The NPS intimated they could help with that but haven't gotten back to Dr. Sharky about it yet.  

a new drainage canal greenway in Anchorage
SHREVEPORT'S SPECIAL: Maybe the best part of the whole trip was hearing Dr. Sharky tell us the following: he's seen lots of drainage canals over his career as a landscape architect of greenways, but he's NEVER seen a city with such easily convertible canals as Shreveport has!  He said it would make construction of greenways more affordable than it has been elsewhere by an order of magnitude!  Dr. Sharky also said, Shreveporters "have no idea how this is going to change their city." To get an idea, he mentioned they might visit Anchorage, Alaska, the site of a recent renaissance due to greenways.

        But certainly this work has a lot of value that can be developed much further--and isn't that just what we'd say about our city? Links to the proposals and miscellaneous materials are below.  We hope you find them as inspiring as do Ian and Loren.
sample of the work showing bayou-crossing difficulties

by Li Wang
(500 MB, but worth it: a full plan for the southeast side to leverage the existing bike paths and provoke demands for similar facilities throughout the city)
by James Mann et al.
(6 MB, an easy loader with big downtown relevance; along Cross Bayou to the north, and aside a forested railway to the south)
by Xueyao Wei
(122 MB, but again, worth it: the marketing of Shreveport through the artistic representation and design of our city; check out that bridge!)
Other materials:
categorization and documentation of drainage canal types (wow!), some potential routes, a greenway plan along southern Fern Ave., the route and programming, analysis of city vegetation, sites from Columbia Park to Querbes.
       So, if you're interested in discussing these, join us at our holiday themed meeting Monday evening at 6:00 in the Wright Math Building.  Bring your own beverage and/or a nibbly to share, or just yourself.  We'd love to hear your thoughts on these proposals and how to move them forward.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Bus System Improvements, Public Space for Street Art, Free Exercise Classes, Targetting Obesity Among Student Proposals Presented to V.I.P.'s Last Week

We held the second of three special ABetterShreveport meetings Monday that feature Centenary students in Urban Sociology presenting their proposals for, well, a better Shreveport!  We made special invitations to few government officials and community leaders we thought might be interested and able to give useful feedback.  Indeed they did!

In attendance: Gregory Free, Wendy Benscotter, Feico Kempff, Cynthia Keith, Maurice Loridans, Dara Sanders, April Dahm, Catherine Kennedy, Victoria Provenza, Carolyn Manning, Brian Salvatore, David Nelson, Stephanie Evans, Quincy-Allen Jones, Jordan Pope, Kedrick Williams, Victoria Luraguez, Deborah Allen, Mariah Pitre, Don Adley

Stephanie Evans presented first on her proposal for an improved bus system.  Stephanie noted the benefits of public transportation, Sportran’s successes thus far, and improvements that would be possible based on what’s worked elsewhere.  Among the proposals is for an app that would show the routes.  (The specifics of that app were developed by fellow student Don Adley.  It was part of Don's participation in NODE, Centenary's living learning community focused on technology and social change.)  Other suggestions were for LED lit bus stops with posted schedules, and pamphlets with schedules funded by advertizing.  Stephanie cited the examples of Modesto, California, and Oklahoma City that have implemented such things.

Bus stop signs now used in Seattle (from The
David Nelson suggested the app could use GPS trackers on buses to locate their position, and someone else said they believed the buses are GPS equipped. 

Victoria Provenza noted that there’s a stigma against public transportation in our city (and others like it, no doubt).  Dara Sanders noted that it’s seen as tranportation welfare.  Valerie 
McElhose, Assistant Manager of Sportran as Sportran, as well as Director, Gene Eddy, were referred to Stephanie as contacts.

Adding multi-use paths can help lower a city's obesity rate
Victoria Luraguiz then presented on how we might reduce obesity through a wise application of public funds.  Among her proposals were mass media campaigns on the causes and treatments of obesity, and investment in creating appealing network of nature trails and bike paths to use for transportation. 

Deborah Allen commented that low income people are targeted with cheap, high calorie food; Gregory Free noted the limited options such people have in the typical convenience stores common in such neighborhoods.  Loren said the Highland area where the Centenary campus is has been officially designated as a “food desert” because of such characteristics.

Street art by Banksy in London
Kedrick Williams and Jordan Pope presented a proposal for an outdoor gallery and public space for street art.  They said the art can be graffiti, stenciles, pieces using wheatpaste as the medium, or posters using a grid layout, or stickers.  Kedrick and Jordan showed examples of the work of such famous street artists as Sheppard Ferry, Banksy, and David Cho.  Kedrick and Jordan also showed pictures of an area devoted to street art in Austin, as well as interviews with out-of-town families who were enjoying visiting it as an interesting feature of the city.

Gregory noted that his office in Austin is very near the area they describe.  He pointed out that monitoring what would be too offensive to allow can be difficult.  Kedrick and Austin said that they would suggest using practices that have been successful elsewhere in dealing with such issues, such as having artists register.  It was noted that it would encourage artists to consider how they might take responsibility for the social consequences of their public art.  Victoria Provenza commented that the Crewe of Highland has done that, in effect, in deciding to ban the symbol of the rebel flag for the highland parade, but leaving it up to individuals and groups to decide how to operate within that constraint. Gregory noted that elsewhere similar ideas have been proposed, such as having a giant easel, open picture frame, and pedestal, all available for performances or exhibits, though there would be a jury process involved.

Jordan and Kedrick also presented a shipping container mockup showing how such a container could be used as the exhibition and creation space, while also helping to anchor a point on a bike trail.  Shreveport Common was also described as possibly an optimal location for the space. Catherine Kennedy said she’d wanted to have art installed downtown in spaces that need improvement. Wendy Benscotter noted that this proposal had already been passed along to the Shreveport Common Public Art committee.   

Dara Sanders said those containers to meet the criteria to be considered as “structures” and so would have to meet the regulations that go along with that, but did not intimate that that would mean it couldn’t work. Victoria noted that local architect Mike McSwain has worked with containers and would be a good contact for those interested in furthering this proposal. 

When asked if such a space might be coopted by homeless people and converted into a shelter, Dara Sanders noted that any public space has needs for monitoring and it must be administered in such a way to maintain it’s intended function.  Loren noted that’s true for any public park.


Quincy-Allen Jones presented last, proposing free exercise classes, such as Zumba, Yoga, Jazzercise, or Tai Chi to be held in public parks.  Quincy pointed out how these programs would not only help combat obesity, but would reduce depression levels with outdoor activity, increase the social capital of participants by increasing their social networks, and overall add to the city’s quality of life and likelihood of economic development.  Quincy proposed that college students seeking experience in teaching exercise classes could teach the classes.

Catherine Kennedy noted that in her capacity at SPAR, she sees how the city can be perceived as sucking the fun out of anything, but that the city is responsible for what happens in parks, and that the teachers would have to be certified.  However, she said, the city could work with students to get their certification and that could add to the motivation of students to participate; students may value becoming certified.  It was noted it might be possible to pay for people to be certified, but they could then teach thereafter on a volunteer basis, or perhaps could receive a $500 tax credit.

Dara Sanders noted that the programs could also take place at schools, where the facilities are present in the form of gyms, etc.  The program could work with Parent-Teacher Associations to apply for grants.  The Riverview Park was also noted as as possible locale.  Loren has noted before that China did well in having morning routines of Tai Chi throughout it’s country and communities would start their days exercising outdoors together.

Feico Kempff asked Quincy-Allen if he'd be able to recruit students, and if he had the time and wherewithal to do that.  Quincy responded that for this project, he’d make the time, and would love to make it happen.  Catherine said she’d like to talk more Quincy about the project.

Loren reported that he and fellow ABS board member Ian Webb were very impressed by the set of proposals for greenways in Shreveport they had seen that morning.  They had been invited to view proposals by Dr. Bruce Sharky, professor of landscape architecture at LSU.  Several of the graduate students in one of Dr. Sharky's classes selected Shreveport as a site for designing greenway possibilities.  Loren and Ian were raving about them, so stay tuned to the blog.  We’ll be posting them next week!

Also next week, on Monday the 10th, will be the last group of Centenary student presentations on the following topics:

  • curbside composting
  • exercise and nutrition free magazine 
  • student mentoring program
  • community gardening with the homeless
  • sidewalk improvement

The students are eager to receive feedback, and anyone is invited to attend.  Join us!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Caddo Parish bike and pedestrian trail map; see new 2 mile route via widened road shoulders on N. Lakeshore Dr.

Article by the Times' Michelle Marcotte on 12.1.12.

North Lakeshore Drive is a popular spot for area cyclists, District 2 Caddo Commissioner Lyndon B. Johnson said.

Typically on Saturday mornings, he said, there are 20 to 30 bicycles riding along it.

Now, thanks to an ongoing Caddo project with a completed two-mile initial segment, those cyclists have a designated space to ride on the road.

And by this time next year, they could be enjoying the entire 17-mile path between Shreveport and Louisiana Highway 169, said Ken Ward, project manager for Caddo public works and engineering.

The development of a safe and attractive pedestrian and bicycling network integrated with vehicle transportation is one of the goals identified in the Shreveport-Caddo Master Plan.

Ward said each year the parish completely rehabilitates one of its worst roads. And when North Lakeshore Drive came up, he noticed the parish owns the right of way along the stretch and it could accommodate a bike path/shoulder.

The added space along the road not only would provide a safe place for cyclists to ride, but a shoulder for vehicles to pull over in emergencies.

In addition, once the path is completed, it would connect Richard Fleming Park, a 15-acre park on West Lakeshore Drive, and the 160-acre Walter B. Jacobs Memorial Nature Park.

"This is a monumental baby step," District 4 Caddo Commissioner Matthew Linn said.

The parish is able to build the bike path for far less than what the traditional cost is for this type of lifestyle improvement because Caddo already owns the easement, he said.

Ward said he would like to see more bike paths develop in other areas of the parish, particularly the south, where people tend to ride.

"There is a real need for this," said Ian Webb, owner of Red River Cycling.

In addition to leisure riders, he said, there is a big population of people who ride a bike to school, work or visit the store who could benefit from the designated bicycle path.

"This is something everyone can use whether it's for transportation or recreation."

There are no plans for new bicycle paths in Shreveport next year, city Public Assembly and Recreation director Shelly Ragle said. However, A Better Shreveport continues to work on a plan to create a network of bike paths and nature trails using drainage ditches, levees and strips of unused land in the city.

The group applied for a grant with the National Park Service, which connected it to a landscape architecture professor at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

As a result, Bruce Sharky brought a few of his students to Shreveport last month to look at bike path and nature trail opportunities in the city. Demerath and Webb plan to visit Sharky's class Monday, when students will present their proposals.

"These proposals out of Baton Rouge are designed for Shreveport, and we're hoping to integrate them into a plan," Demerath said.

Bicycle and multiuse paths atop levees are becoming popular in south Louisiana.

Duane Foret, St. Charles director of Parks and Recreation, said his parish is building multiuse paths on top of its east bank levee along the Mississippi River. The east bank path — in its final phase — runs through the parish to connect to neighboring St. John and Jefferson parishes.

"On Saturdays, we probably have 20 to 25 vehicles at the (East Bank Bridge) Park who drove there just to bicycle on top of the levee path," he said.

St. Charles is funding the path with grants obtained through the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development and matching funds from the parish, he said. It also has plans for a bicycle path on the west bank levee.

Foret was unsure if an economic or connectivity vision was the force behind initiating the multiphase project, as it started before his time. But he said it seems to have grown even with a potential plan being discussed to build a levee path between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

"It seems to have grown from that first initiative."

In the Comments section:

James E Burian · Avionics Inspector at Metro Aviation
I like the idea of having the bicycle and pedestrian lane on N Lakeshore but it looks like it will increase the likely hood of accidents between vehicle and bike or pedestrian.

The lane looks like a narrow shoulder. I drive N Lakeshore almost every day. The speed limit there is 45 mph. Most vehicles drive faster than that. Some approaching 60 mph.

I would not feel safe walking or cycling right next to vehicles moving that fast. In my opinion it would be safer to have some sort of barrier between the bicycle lane and the road or have a grass median that separates the road form the lane.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Centenary Students Present Proposals to ABS as Part of Urban Sociology Class

In attendance at the last ABS meeting: Kathryn Brandl, Susan Keith, Carolyn Manning, Victoria Provenza, Loren Demerath Maurice Loridans, Feico Kempff, Leighton Wilson, Kelley Savage, Amanda Hock, Jacob Hooper-Shaffer, and Kelly Weeks.
This was the first of three ABS meetings where Centenary students in an Urban Sociology class are presenting proposals for making a better ShreveportDetails of all the proposals will be featured on the ABS web site at the end of the semester, but below are brief descriptions.

Kelley Savage (pictured presenting to the right) proposed a program aimed at obesity, particularly for the people that cannot afford personal trainers and the nutritional information that goes with it.  Kelley proposed that Shreveport adopt a program that has been implemented elsewhere, and for which there is funding support.  The program gives people tours of grocery stores featuring healthy diet information.  Kelley outlined the steps needed to establish a "Shopping Matters" program from the organization "Share Our Strengths," including the minimum number of people that need to be enrolled and the number of tours that must be given in order to receive funding.

Mariah Pitre described her proposal for an Outdoor Adventure Center The center would be located at Centenary, administered by Centenary students, and would offer rentals of canoes, camping equipment, and mountain bikes, as well as post maps showing local trails and sites, and information on upcoming trips, organization meetings, equipment for sale, etc.  Among the possible partners Mariah listed would be the Bayou Chapter of the Ozark Society, the local mountain biking organization "LOCO", and the Red River Wildlife Refuge.  Mariah also proposed that the Center be philanthropically oriented and donate procedes to organizations helping the homeless.

Jacob Hooper-Shaffer presented a proposal for an after-school music education program for elementary school-aged children.  The program would take place on Centenary's campus and feature affordable instrument rental and both private and group lessons conducted by college and high school students.  John noted that recitals and group performances would allow students and their families to increase their own social capital, reduce social isolation, as well as better imagine themselves on a college campus in the future.
Amanda Hock proposed a renovation and increased use of Centenary's inimitable "Band Shell."  Notably, the amphitheater sits--usually unused--in a prime site right in the middle of the campus.  Amanda proposed a number of options for making the seating more comfortable, such as replacing the concrete benches with a sloped grass lawn, or supplementing the benches with portable stadium seats, or, as Maurice Loridans suggested, coating the concrete with a new, smoother surface.  Among the new uses Amanda envisioned as possible would be using it for the music school's "recital hour," theater performances, having a "Live at 5" music hour, possibly broadcast over KSCL, and making it available to off-campus organizations, such as The Peter Pan Players.

After each presentation there was active discussion with comments and suggestions for the respective project.

Before the meeting's end, Loren delivered a check to the treasurer, Feico Kempff, from the Community Foundation, in support of the dog park.  Thank you Community Foundation!

The group also discussed it's support of Dara Sanders' application for a study of a downtown area through an EPA grant for brownfield development.

Next week, Dara Sanders will introduce herself to ABS.   Loren had an extensive conversation with her about the role of planning and is excited to have such a knowledgeable planner working for our city and parish.

Also next week, Loren will report on he and Ian Webb's trip to Baton Rouge to see Dr. Bruce Sharky's graduate class in landscape architecture at LSU present proposals for greenways in Shreveport that morning.

But highlighting next week's meeting will be four more student proposals for a better Shreveport:
  • a public art space using shipping containers
  • free exercise classes in city parks
  • an improved bus service
  • heightening awareness of obesity causes and solutions
As usual, we'll meet 6:00-7:00 at the Wright Math Building on Woodlawn, across from Magale Library.  Please join us!