ABS ended 2011 with a bang, holding a holiday party at our last meeting while reviewing the proposals for Shreveport greenways that had been developed by graduate students down in Baton Rouge at the School of Landscape Architecture in a class taught by Dr. Bruce Sharky, former director of the school (which, by the way, is the number one such school in the country!).
In attendance: Dara Sanders, Feico Kempff, Ian Webb, Jerome Nicholas, Matthew Linn, Lani Duke, Cynthia Keith, Loren Demerath, Susan Keith, Jack Waterman, Jon Soul, Brian Salvatore, Wendy Benscotter, Anna, Maurice Loridans, Carolyn Manning
A number of people said how impressed they were by the proposals. (A few others mentioned they weren’t able to download such large files, so Loren will be working to post them and make them more accessible through the blog.)
The following points were among those made as the group discussed the proposals:
Ian Webb noted that students had no preconceived notions of boundaries or budgets, and that they’re worth reading to get your mind going on what could be possible. Making a network of paths that connect amenities would clearly increase our city’s value. Jerome noted that the students were looking at “desire lines,” which allowed them to see the forest for the trees.
Matthew said we could put a pathway down Ellerbe Rd. if the physicians who’ve been hit on their bikes were organized. The Parish would have to maintain an insurance policy in case someone fell on their land.
Dara said one could look into extending a path based on just slight modifications to utility easements, and we can find out from the utility companies where the easements are. Loren reminded the group of ABS’ meeting with Director of Operational Services Mike Strong some years ago (before his retirement), when he said it should perhaps be a policy for them to put a path over any easement they happen to have to dig up. Dara noted it would be interesting to overlay some of these desired connections over our drainage ditches.
SHREVEPORT IS IN THE BEST POSITION ONE EXPERT HAS EVER SEEN
Loren recalled how when he and Ian visited Baton Rouge to see the students present their proposals, Dr. Sharky said that the draniage ditch width made our situation the best he’d ever seen in making for cost-effective conversions to greenways. He also said folks here have no idea how it will change their city. Loren and Ian had mentioned that that might be part of the problem, and Sharky responded that city officials should take to trip to Anchorage, Alaska to see how greenways can so significantly raise a city’s quality of life. Ian noted that just that day there was a guy his shop who’d just come from Anchorage and was raving about the greenways there.
It was noted a letter we’ve received from State Senator Barrow Peacock, as well as previous contact we’ve had with Senator Landrieu’s office, indicate that both are our allies in increasing quality of life through nature trails and bike paths and making the city more walkable and bikeable. Senator Peacock’s letter congratulated us on the money we’ve raised and asked for bike path to stay integrated into the dog park plan.
Ian noted James Mann et al.’s use of the railroad right of way; that’s an active line that goes through Festival Plaza, but active lines are commonly used as the basis for greenways; there is apparently sufficient width and space there; Kansas City Southern owns that track, as well as the bridge that goes across the river by Festival Plaza.
RAILS-TO-TRAILS A RESOURCE
Dara noted that the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy specializes in this sort of thing. Loren noted that Shreveport has several connections to Rails-to-Trails, including native daughter of Shreveport, Lindsay Martin, who now works high up in that organization in D.C. (Loren has had contact with Lindsay, who has shared ABS contact info with a Jason Tudor, a person who works on the outreach team for AARP’s Livability Initiative in Louisiana and is interested in doing some bike/ped-related work in Shreveport.) Dara also noted we can also see what legal approaches other places within Louisiana have taken. Dara said she can see how a lot things need to be put together from her perspective as the Master Plan Administrator.
Matthew said the Parish is forging ahead. It’s spent money on bicycle paths, and has some left over to go by two other parks. It will be 36 miles to loop the parks. Every so many years the Parish does street improvements, and when they do they’ve been doing it more cheaply and reserving the saved money with these kinds of improvements in mind. The ultimate goal is go to the south side of parish where Cimp Haven is located. There’s also hope for developing land acquisition with federal monies.
Dara noted that from the Master Plan standpoint establishing a greenway plan is important because it helps establish everything else. We can construct connections with grant funding. If our codes are written correctly, we can ask the private sector to help establish the network. Dara said it’s like putting together a puzzle, and to help that, we could take some of desired connections and overlay them over the data that we have.
Brian asked about the Master Plan’s position on the I-49 connector. Dara said it doesn’t really speak for, or against it. The Plan talks about livability; but we don’t know if the connector is warranted; if it is, we’ll have to be sensitive in its design to not cut that neighborhood off. Jerome noted there are ways to mitigate that. It was also noted that some cities are simply prohibiting interstates.
Speaking of the I-49 corridor, Brian said he was doubtful that NLCOG has given public health due consideration in its push to build the freeway through the heart of the city, and that this year the World Health Organization classified diesel soot as a definite carcinogen.
Matthew said there appear to some people supporting it for private gain. (Loren labeled that as immoral if they’re aware it’s also against the public good.) But Matthew said it doesn’t appear to pay off. Buying the property needed for would be over 1 billion dollars.
ACTION ITEMS INCLUDE ADDRESSING GOVERNMENT BODIES
As Loren asked about action items, it was noted that we should get together with the Parish and City Council and see if they’d support a greenway plan and see what their methodology would be; ABS has the ability to bring it to the public, through the blog, the facebook page, and the weekly radio show. A question for city government officials is whether they would support MPC and the Parish taking it to public and working with the public to craft something it supports. Perhaps ABS could ask to speak to the City Council, to the Parish Commission, and to the Metropolitan Planning Commission (who’s purpose is facilitate discussion between the city and parish governments). ABS could then present some samples of Shreveport greenways from these proposals, and ask those officials to consider supporting the effort to develop some kind of greenway plan for the city.
It was noted that the public meetings for each of those bodies have a public comments section. Even better, ABS could be sponsored by someone like Matthew or Jeff Everson for a particular spot. We also might want to meet with Ken on the 8th floor, and work with the city through Rose McCullough, who’s excited about these things. We could speak to the Master Plan Committee.
Dara asked if ABA would be interested in helping the Community Foundation with collecting information the use of busses and bicycles. The Foundation has been requested to get information and need to decide which 20 locations they should select for frequently used bus stops, etc. Dara asked if we would feel comfortable providing feedback to the Foundation, and the group responded it would. Next month ABS will begin thinking about key locations. The Foundation is working with Dr. Hawkins at LSUS.
Tulane architecture student and Magnet High grad Jack Waterman mentioned that the “Dutch Dialogues” going on New Orleans is an interesting process of looking at the Dutch model for increasing quality of life while "living with water." We wouldn't be the first to put our drainage ditches and levees to better use!