Sunday, October 28, 2012

Cycling to Texas Ave Makers Fair on Sat, Nov 10, includes visit to Aseana Autumn Fest

Velo Dendro Shreveport, 2010 by trudeau
Velo Dendro Shreveport, 2010, a photo by trudeau on Flickr.

Texas Ave Makers Fair, an indubitable Best of Shreveport event, has a concurrent, across-the-street partner: the Aseana Autumn Fest. Which equally qualifies as a BOS event.

While Makers Fair will follow its usual 10 am to 5 pm duration, Aseana is expanding its program by going to a 9 am start and 8:30 pm close.

The Aseana theme is Asian Street Food - sold 9 am to 4 pm - and feature Diwali fireworks at 6:30 pm. An Indian Buffet will be served 5 pm to 8:30 pm, says Mary Grace de Joya-Vea.

Contact Maurice or Loren if you'd like to be included in plans for cycling to the fests from a Rhino Coffee start-up on Sat morn.

Conservation Easement and Student Projects Discussed at Last Meeting

Kathryn Brandl, Maurice Loridans, and Loren Demerath met last Monday to talk about the Rhino’s to Makers Fair ride planned for November 10th, starting at 10:00 a.m.  Maurice corrected Loren’s notes from last time, saying he meant the bus system is like a wrecker service for cyclists.

Noted that drivers who wave to pedestrians or cyclists don’t realize you can’t see them well behind their windshield.  In mentioning friendly beeps from cars, Maurice said he wishes people would roll down their windows and say hello rather talk to him with their machine.  Carolyn and Loren talked on the radio show that day about how it can startle cyclists.  

Loren and Feico described their positive meeting with Scott Rawles and Margo Schidler of Centenary College.  Scott is Vice President of Institutional Advancement, and Margo is Director of Strategic Communication.  Scott was agreeable to the idea, which would be that Centenary would serve as the entity that would receive the property rights and easements.  There would be a memorandum of understanding establishing this as a cooperative endeavor between Centenary and ABS; Centenary would serve as the deed-holder/agent and ABS would serve as the manager that would report to Centenary.  Scott asked ABS for a formal proposal, which he will then forward to Centenary President David Rowe.  Scott also said an agency account within the college could be set up as soon as we need it.  ABS was awarded money from Caddo Parish to set up the conservation easement, and we can deposit that into the account to draw on as need be.  The money would be used for acquisition of rights of passage.  The School Board and Community Renewal are two property owners we would approach, as well as the Leroy Scott Estate on the Bossier side.

Jon Soul and John Fontaine walked the new big loop of the trail with an eye towards liability issues.  John noted we would want to crush the car at Bridge Monte Carlo, as well as eliminate the sharp staubs that exist on the new trail.  The section going east is difficult to follow and work needs to continue there to establish it as a trail.  Way points and GPS would help.  Several allies of ABS were noted as a potential helpers in that surveying-like capacity.

Loren said his students in Urban Sociology will be presenting their independent projects to ABS in late November and early December, and anyone is welcome to attend.  These are a range of proposals for the city, or for Centenary.  Loren will also be issuing personal invitations to specific community leaders and government or college officials who are potential partners on the projects.

As an example, Loren described a proposal being developed by one of his students for an outdoor equipment rental facility that would serve both Centenary students and the community in general.  Potential partners include the mountain bike club, LOCO, and the Bayou Chapter of the Ozark Society.  The latter group meets on the Centenary campus the second Tuesday evening of each month, and which gives a membership discount to Centenary students.  Maurice noted that the Bayou Chapter rents kayaks to members at a discount, though they’re kept on Slago road outside of town.  There is plenty of great paddling around; Lake Bistinaeu has canoe trails that the Ozark Society has marked.  The time of year with the lotus blossoms is beautiful.

Feico reported that Grace Peterson would like to update the community through the radio show on how the state government is trying to promote more growing of local produce.  She’s been developing community gardening, but now is at work on the second phase of the program, urban farming, where there is now enough production to sell to restaurants and markets.  Valencia has been very successful under Deborah Coleman.  Leia Lewis of Sankofa--a recent radio show guest--has a community garden that has been paired with an educational and job training program.

Maurice noted that the model doesn’t work if you don’t have someone living right there.  Maurice said he has a lot of his produce taken in the community garden he used; it requires “eyes on the field.”  And a close-knit neighborhood will escort away folks that don’t belong.  Fences work too, he noted.

Also, these days, you don’t plow, that’s passe; nowadays you build raised beds.  And you can get intensive production out of an empty lot.  It was noted that in the front yard nobody has it in their heads that it’s free for the taking.  People do think that when it’s in an empty lot.  They might not have had a problem at Valencia because it’s a long walk with your loot over the field and people sit on the porches overlooking that area.  

It was noted that having a permanent Farmers Market would be nice.  Noma’s done a great job but the festivals take precedent and push her out.  There’s no market now, being pushed out by the Revel, but it’s a great thing in our prime North Louisiana month of October.  We could use a place that stays shaded or that’s even indoors.  In Latin America they have permanent markets that are often indoors and that expand into the streets on market days.

It was noted that in other places people seem to go outside more often.  In Quebec and Montreal there is a heavy cafe life outside.  Here, there are places to sit, though, such as at Starbucks, Guiseppe’s, Fresca, and Zoccolo; they tend to look at parking lots; perhaps a screen would help, but maybe the marketing of seeing people sit there is a draw.  Rhino’s has pleasant spaces outside in back, as well in front.  It’s surprising when its a gorgeous day in December or January and nobody’s outside.  Kathryn has seen more people outside in Minneapolis on a 20 degree day than here in the 70’s.

All who are interested are encourage to come to next Monday’s meeting and hear about exciting stuff that’s happening.  We’ll be meeting at the Wright Math Building, as usual, at 6:00.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Downtown Property and Painting Streets for Cyclists Discussed at Last ABS Meeting

On the heels of last week’s informative meeting with SRAC Director Pam Atchison and Shreveport Common Project Manager Wendy Benscoter, the group discussed various issues related to the project, as well as plans for painting streets for bicycling.

In attendance: Victoria Provenza, Cynthia Keith, Carolyn Manning, Kathryn Brandl, Maurice Loridans, John Gilliland

The following points were noted:
  • Property owners can be skeptical, of downtown development projects, but if you’re the only one who is being skeptical of all the stakeholders, then it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: the project will fail like you thought it would, but it’s because you’ve held out.
  • Property standards are being enforced more now and that should encourage owners nearby to maintain their properties, as well as for people to have more faith in proposals.
  • The way to get owners to participate and sell is offer more money than it’s worth.  It can be offered as a grant, e.g., a HUD federal grant.  Murphy Chetham was running it out of Mayor Glover’s office.  A good deal if you were in the market to renovate office space downtown.
  • It appears they’re trying to turn it into Magazine Street in New Orleans; there’s no Tulane University here, but there are artists and other members of a “creative class” who are less transigent, but maybe more committed to their city.
The "green box" design helps transportation cyclists
Maurice showed the bike plan for the Shreveport Common.  They haven’t firmed up what’s happening in the common itself, though Maurice has expressed the hope that a bicycle cooperative would be there.  Chris Petro got the idea from Tim Wachtel to make Firn-Gilbert into bike-oriented thoroughfare.  The bike path from 70th to Bert Kouns extending south from the terminus of the Firn extension is an asset. But the experienced transportation cyclist Maurice noted that Gilbert is problematic starting at about Olive with hills and lights, and Creswell is better with easier crossings and less hills.  Maurice noted that Marshall is a fine finishing leg going into downtown.

Towards the west side, Southern is used often by bicycles and busses, and Maurice said the bike racks on those busses are heavily used.  Maurice recommends sharrows until you get out past the grid neighborhoods.  

Loren asked about making paths perhaps along the railway behind Texas Ave.  Loren shared about the railway rennovation going on by the I-49 I-20 intersection; he talked to a construction worker while trying to jog through there.  Kansas City Southern is using Key Construction out of Jackson, Mississippi.  

Maurice noted that the city has traded passthroughs for railways in the inner city in favor of getting them in the new neighborhoods.  The city’s walkability is compromised by such agreements, but maybe railway companies would get tax breaks or benefit from some other incentive by building in multi-purpose paths along the new railway sections.

It was noted that when the city renovates the Kings and Youree, and Kings and Shreveport Barksdale intersections, they will be all but impossible to cross by pedestrians and bicyclists.  Apparently the plan they’re using is 20 years old, made before I-49 was finished and back when more traffic needed to go through Youree.  

Maurice said we can fix it by occupying the lane with bike rides.  One thing that has created bike ways in other cities is when motorists have complained to city officials that the bicyclists are slowing traffic down.  Legally, they have a right to the road, so that creates pressure on the city to provide for cyclists.  It was noted that intentionally slowing down traffic is unethical, though maybe no more so than endangering cyclists until complaints make it inconvenient for the traffic engineer.

Kathryn noted that Shreveport is a small town by many standards and New Orleans and Manhattan manage lots of bike lanes.  It was noted that “the green box” is something that establishes the highest legitimacy for bikes as road users, and cyclists like them around the country.  The lack of street sweepers in the city can make bike lanes the resting place for crushed glass and gravel, so it’s a complicated issue of how to provide for cyclists.  But it was noted that the city’s done anything EVER for bicycling.  The bike sharrows that exist on certain streets were painted by this very group, albeit with permission of Mike Strong, then Director of Operational Services and in charge of streets.

On the bright side, the group continues to plan for the social bike ride to the Makers Fair on November 10th.  The main group will leave at 10 a.m., perhaps arriving Rhino’s around 9:30 for pre-ride coffee; others may choose to use the same route at different times, and we’ll post the recommended route soon.  

Maurice said the optimal route going up Creswell and down Marshall into downtown will mean a one block sidewalk segment up to Thora.  Bicycling on sidewalks is technically illegal, but considering how much has been done to provide cyclists otherwise, so be it.  

It was noted that we could come back in various groups; also, that you can leave any stuff you buy to pick up later with marketers there (Victoria Provenza noted she was happy to let some cyclists do that with some maps they’d bought from her at the Fair last year.)

In light of the frustrations that had been noted, the group planned to paint more sharrows.  Loren recalled that the group was about to do that two years ago.  Mike Strong had given the group permission to do so.  At one point Mr. Strong said his department would do the painting, “just tell us where to paint,” but the administration more recently said our group would have to provide the labor and materials.  The Department of Operational Services did say it would provide security support of a truck with lights that would follow us as we paint.  Ian Webb, of Rivercity Cycling, volunteered to fund the cost of the paint.  However, it was decided to delay things in favor of pushing for a city-wide bicycle plan that would have professional planners tell us and/or the city where to paint.  Since that hasn’t gotten us anywhere, the group decided to go back to the old plan of painting, bit by bit.

Loren will contact Ian Webb and ask it he’s still willing to help fund the paint and other materials.  It was noted that we can use all the manpower we can get, and that putting out a call for volunteers to help on facebook and through email might get us a few more hands.  By next Monday we’ll firm up plans.

A meeting of ABS and a local organization will be taking place Monday.  Come to the meeting Monday night to hear of what we learn.  Good news is expected!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Shreveport Dog Park Alliance's reply to the editorial in The Times on Friday Oct 19,2012
"No logic supports holding dog park fund hostage". money from the RRWC is earmarked for the dog park and was done fair and square.  It is a done deal.  The mayor got his number one priority, improvements at Riverview Park for $1million ($500k for a bathroom and $500K for a stage cover).  The parish got its number one priority, dog park money-$280K.  If the mayor has his way the city will see improvements only in Riverview Park.  If the parish gets their way too, the city will see improvements at Riverview Park AND improvements at Marie and Charles Hamel Memorial Park. Those are the only 2 options.  Parish reps, and 2 city councilmen, went down to the RRWC to defend parish choice; the city/SPAR went to down to the RRWC to defend their choices.  The amount needed for the dog park was set forth by the city/SPAR, not the dog park alliance.  The dog park alliance has been wanting the city to come down on the amount of money needed to build the dog park.  The mayor is demanding a wrought iron fence, approximately $100,000 extra.  $51,000 is needed to bring water to the site (there is currently no water at the park).  Water is very much needed at this park anyway, many runners, bicyclists, dogs/owners, etc frequent this park.  In many cases it is the beginning of a long run or bike ride, all will appreciate potable water there. The other projects people keep referring to that need to take preference, probably don't have anything to do with this riverfront recreation money and most are not even aware of what all has been requested from the RRWC.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The River Needs Some Love! Red River Cleanup on November 10

Many of you who've enjoyed the outdoors in our area know how natural beauty flows right through our area.  Several ABetterShreveport members have canoed and camped along the river on its sand bars.  Others have motorboated, waterskied, picnicked, swam (skinnydipped?!) mountain biked along its shores.  Join us in cleaning it up!
Motoring or paddling or picking up on shore, c'mon out and help!
The following is from Jennifer Carter:
Third Annual Red River Cleanup will be held on Saturday, November 10, 2012 at 8:00 am at Stoner Boat Launch. Small motor boats are needed to  ferry people to sandbars for trash pick up and deliver trash to the collection areas. This is a joint effort with the Bayou Chapter of the Arkansas Canoe Club and the Ozark Society and various other community organizations.  Paddle boats are needed to get into small inlets to get trash.
Thank you, Gumbo to Geaux!
This is a great event where the community is invited to pick up litter around the Red River area.
Volunteers are needed on the ground to help with registration, distribute supplies, sort recycling items and serve lunch. Lunch will be provided by Gumbo to Geaux.

If you can dedicate a day to clean up our river, please contact Adam Willard at 318 423 1690.
"Like" 3rd Annual Red River Cleanup on Facebook to be informed of updates.  There is also a website at

Thursday, October 11, 2012

SRAC Presents Inspiring Shreveport Common Progress. Let's Make Downtown Culturally Rich and Vital!

  Pictured here from right are Gregory Free and Pam Atchison

The ABS Board hosted the leaders of SRAC and the Shreveport Common proposal.  It was a meeting that left us optimistic for the future of downtown!

In attendance: Kathryn Brandl, Wendy Benscoter, Pam Atchison, Feico Kempff, Maurice Loridans, Brian Salvatore, Loren Demerath

Wendy Benscoter, has been educated in Creative Placemaking at Rutgers University in New Jersey.  Building on that relationship, the State of Louisiana Office of Cultural Development headed by Pam Breux has formed a formal partnership with Rutgers so that people will spend six months in LA in residence.  As Pam introduced Wendy and explained the program, on the topic of urban planning she mentioned that Paul Farmer is from Shreveport, and comes here every three months, and might be a great guest on the radio show “Time for ABetterShreveport”.  Great idea Pam!

Wendy explained that Creative Placemaking transforms communities with art and culture.  SRAC’s offices are an example of leading a cultural revitalization at the west edge as a gateway into downtown.  SRAC says listening sessions helped shape the vision.  An “Inside-Out Charette” on Shreveport Common Day allowed people to imagine what the space around Texas Avenue and Common would be like with art infusing the space.

As for the new SRAC headquarters in the old Central Fire Station, the money has been raised, construction is underway, and they should be moving in in a few months.

ABS has long pushed for bike racks downtown, and we were happy to hear how SRAC held an “Art in Transportation” workshop (a number of bike racks have been designed, judged and are about to be built with SRAC’s support).  At the workshop, national “gurus” in art and transportation led participants in a symposium to work on developing plans.  The principle winning design is by a Tuscon designer, entitle, “Line and Sky” CommonLink; the kiosk cubes (functioning a lot like tablet computers) can play music and feature local works.

Wendy showed how market value buildings are envisioned to the west of the Municipal Auditorium with a boulevard to it’s east that will lead to the common, a “Grand Promenade” (now funded) just west of where the Makers Fair is now held.

Loren asked if this would help attract residents downtown, and Pam noted that they did an artists survey to help research how they can help artists support themselves, in addition to through training and facilities; they asked what artists would want to live downtown; they’ve planned a market study of the area; including a position analysis of the area of what the market value rates are.  

SRAC and the partners (36 organizations!) are helping change to come and allow the plan to become a reality.  The goal is end up with 250-300 market value homes, mainly for people without kids; pre or post family. The market study would look for places for retail to minimize need for driving; elderly people, for example, have noted they like to live in an area where they don’t have to drive.

The Fairmont is being improved and reducing the crime that has been there in the past, and SmarterPhoneApp and iArchitecture have moved into the Fairmont retail space.

Among the work groups SRAC has organized to develop the plan has been the Parks and Green Spaces Group chaired by Donna Curtis; the Transportation Group has included ABS Board members Maurice Loridans and Carolyn Manning; the Developer group is chaired by Edward Taylor, includes various developers; the Artist group is chaired by Bruce Allan; the Vendors group is chaired by Monty Walford; Arts Programming is chaired by Angelique Feaster, with Askari Hinton, Will Andress, April Dahm, among others; public art is chaired by Jodi Glorioso (there is currently a public art call to temporary pieces, and Robert Trudeau has received the first of the awards); the social services group is chaired by Chista Pazzaglia (Loren has since invited her to ally with his urban sociology class); and chairing the communication group is Jennifer Allen.

Loren asked is any urban planners have been involved, since this is a project in urban planning, and Pam said Dara Sanders, planner for Caddo Parish, has been an overseer of handing out bond money.

Feico asked about property owners; who can be negligent with their property.  Brian said he perceived downtown owners as waiting for the big concept; he also noted he liked Louisiana Avenue being the entrance from Highland; Pam mentioned a need for a market space; Maurice mentioned need for a permanent farmers market space. Pam mentioned Shreveport-itis as a problem where people hold out to invest (sell, etc.); and they won’t develop until they see something happen.  One church, for example, doesn’t want to move unless something happens.  Many don’t want to sell just for the appraised value, which is an insult to people who bought it in the 1980’s, Pam said.  And some have been turned pessimistic by previous experiences.  There was push to do something in the ‘90’s called Fame, but didn’t end up happening, so now many have their doubts.  At least a third of property owners are apparently hesitant at selling and are shocked and amazed that their land could be work so little now.  The city has been willing to trade land that they own; that’s been successful; e.g. with the Rescue Mission, and other deals may be in the works.  The partnership with DDA and Bonnie Moore’s department in the city with development has been very helpful.  Wendy and Pam are programmers, but not the developers.  Malcolm Statlander (once a guest on the radio show who spoke on adjudicated property) is the head of doing appraisals for the city.  

Feico asked if the city will be able to maintain its focus on this with the Red River District now in their hands.  Pam said Deborah Camis is working on getting stores and is a go-getter.  Pam also said they’re not looking for the big name, established stores that the District would be, but stores that are more unique and less branded and familiar.

Pam noted they hope for a Texas Street bike path that goes through the alleys; Maurice shared the idea of a bike cooperative for downtown, noting that Liz Swaine knows about it, and that we need a building that can be used for storage and security. Maurice also noted that a lot of art goes on in bike coops.

Loren asked how ABS can help.  Pam said their challenge is to finish the Caddo Common--the park in the middle of the plan.  They are one piece away from having everything in place; Robert Cochran is the owner they haven’t talked to yet, but are working on getting an appointment with him.  But, none of us present were able to say we knew that person, so Pam went to the following points where we could help:

1. ABS could approve the Shreveport Common Bike Plan.  Maurice will present it to us.  The routes were actually started in ABS, the map was then turned over to NLCOG, and we haven’t seen it since, but look forward to looking at it.

2. Pam said you are the kinds of people who we want to live there; you can help launch that lifestyle; developers want to know who will live here and what do they need?  Putting out a vision of downtown life that’s synchronous with what’s being offered would help developers, she said.

3. Pam also said it helps to build the destination in advance; Downtown Neon helped sell Robinson, Tipitinas, and Artspace, and they plan to do the same with Shreveport Common in March, and will do so again quarterly.  They don’t have a name for what it would be, but Uncommon Saturdays in Shreveport; Undone in Shreveport Common, are top nominees at this point, but anyone can help name it!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Downtown Shreveport Common Update from SRAC on Monday!

Join us for our regular Monday meeting at the Wright Math Building for an update on the Shreveport Common with Pam Atchison and Wendy Benscoter

Wendy is shown on the left here with ABS, TACA, and Makers Fair cofounder April Dahm, who's work we'll also be discussing!

The present is area in which the Shreveport Common will exist is show below.  What's the future hold?  Will it be like either of the following images?

from Nicholas and Associates
from O'Conner and Blessing

We'll also address other topics, such as:
  • the route and time for our ride to TACA's Maker's Fair
  • the Louisiana Film Prize as another city gem event, what's it's future, and how can ABS help enhance its effects
  • bike route street painting: is it time again?
As usual, we meet from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. in the Wright Math Building, right across from Magale Library on Woodlawn, two blocks north of the Gold Dome.  All are welcome.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

First Home-Social Meeting Last Monday, Shreveport Common Update Scheduled for Next Monday (10/8)

We had our first home-social meeting in the lovely home of Kathryn Brandl this past Monday.  We’ll have one like this every first Monday of the month. It was BYOB but our hostess provided us with delicious humus regular and black bean.  (Would we have eaten those things 30 years ago?  Who says life hasn’t gotten better!)

In attendance: Brian Salvatore, Kathryn Brandl, Feico Kempff, Maurice Loridans, Victoria Provenza, Cynthia Keith, Loren Demerath, Susan Keith.

The group bemoaned the leaving of local urban planners Stephenie Pedro and Caroline Majors Eckel to Dallas. Relatedly, Victoria noted how frustrating it can be small local businesses to have city government farm out work that could be done in the city and keep talented people here rather than have to move out to the big metropolises. Loren reflected that was a complaint of former local planner at MHSM architects when the city chose an outside firm to do the master plan. That planner to has left the city and now we appear to be left with no one in the private sector who has been trained primarily as urban planner. The isolation of Shreveport may make it more important that we develop within and not farm out what we don't need to.

As many people know, El Dorado Casino has turned over management of the Red River District properties to the city.  The RRD Commission has now accepted a bid on maintenance. Among the issues are crime.  Apparently it can get rough after midnight (though it’s also known among young Air Force people to have the best night life of any big base town).  A greater police presence would help with crime, and the Commission has asked for the police substation there to be used to that effect. Litter is a problem in addition to crime (or at least perceptions of it) with Carolyn reporting that people are throwing trash into the flower beds.  The Commission is working on that as well.  It was noted that the area has great potential and people in the past have used it well, particularly the Mexican American community during Cinco de Mayo, when the shade under the bridge works well. It was noted that drum circles and hula hooping could be a nice activity there too.  The Commission wants it to be a more family oriented district then it is now. the businesses they are making room for appear to be or and it more in that direction.

Our next meeting on October 8th will feature Wendy Benscoter giving us an update on the Shreveport Common plan that SPAR has been working on.  

The Downtown Development Authority seems to be making progress. Later in the month we hope to have Liz Swain talk about what they’re working on, and how ABS might help with getting more residence and retail downtown.

The group began planning for a November 10th social ride to the Makers Fair, one of the great events now in downtown Shreveport. We’ll start at the star new local hangout, Rhino’s coffee shop at the end of the month students from centenary's urban sociology class will present a variety of ideas for the city.

We scheduled December to be our trail month with trail cutting freer of mosquitoes and poison ivy.  Brian and Loren agreed to work on January as our education month.  The month would feature a meeting of invited guests and big thinkers for Shreveport education at the beginning of the month and ending with the work session creating output that should help access to education in our city.

The group briefly discussed what had happened at the City Council meeting recently and how the dog park has become a political football in that it has become a means for politicians to make points to their constituencies about how they care about them, rather than straightforwardly discuss the issue what a dog park is and how the city as whole benefits from it.  What ABS has tried to say for many years now is that anything that benefits one constituency--like dog owners--can actually benefit the whole city if it's something that people have come to expect as a standard amenity in a city with good quality of life. Dog parks have become standard in this country. As Loren Demerath said in front of the City Council this past week, Shreveport maybe the last city in the south to get a dog park and it will be because politicians have played one constituency against another for their own political benefit instead of uniting everyone in what helps the city overall. Many dog park supporters are like Demerath in that they don’t have dogs, but want dog owners in the city to be happy, just they’re glad boat owners are with the Stoner boat launch, or mountain bikers are with trails there at the launch.