Sunday, March 23, 2014

Smart Gardening, Storytelling, Bike-Ped Bridges, Hamilton Terrace, Kings & Youree, Wildflower Trailblazing All Discussed at Recent Meeting with MPC Director In Attendance

In attendance (I think; forgot to take note!): Maurice Loridans, Lani Duke, Josh Fast, Feico Kempff, Loren Demerath, Stephen Jean, Donna Curtis, Susan Keith, Cynthia Keith, Emily Harmeyer, Katherine Brandl

Because ABetterShreveport has long supported the best practice of using community gardening and urban farming to enhance quality of life in a city, the group was excited to welcome Josh Fast.  Josh introduced himself.  Originally from Michigan, Josh has moved to Shreveport recently with his partner, Lydia Thomas, and they’ve since helped people in town like Stephen Jean make their gardens into more productive and efficient systems.  Stephen is on record as having changed his lifestyle to eat more healthily, and his wife has become an urban farmer as part of that change.  

{Later that week, Carolyn Manning invited Josh to be a guest on the radio show and to tell people about some of the cool garden techniques he knows about.  Josh did just that the following Monday, and talked on the radio about such things as digging swales that reduce the need to water your garden.}    

It was noted that Dr. Grace Peterson of the LSU Ag Center believes the ArkLaTex may just be the greens capital of the world, it being such optimal conditions for growing deliciously edible greens!  {And this was evidenced by the successful “Greens on the Red” festival later that week!  Way to go all of you who organized and participated!}

(Community gardening came up again in the discussion of Hamilton Terrace, below.)

The Makers Fair is approaching on April 12th, and we hear it’s now being run by SHRAC, and not by the originators, the Texas Avenue Community Association.  Dan Keele is one person helping organize it, and reportedly he’d like ABetterShreveport to have a booth.  That’d be a good chance to share information on our various projects and proposals, such as the bike routes map, the used-bike depot and coop, the paths network, and little free libraries.  Getting materials and staffing the table will a topic at upcoming meetings.

The night of storytelling performances at Fairfield Studios recently was a real success, reported Loren and Katherine.  This past night’s theme was “new in town.”  The next one they’ll be having will be about “mistakes,” and possibly the next after that about “addiction and recovery.”  Kudos to Sara Hebert and Chris Jay for producing such a rich evening that revealed how many interesting people and stories surround us here in Shreveport!

Stephen Jean, the Interim Director of the Metropolitan Planning Commission was in attendance, and Maurice took the opportunity to ask him about the intersection of Kings Highway and Youree Drive.  Maurice said we’d heard for some time now that the rennovation planned will make it even worse for cyclists and pedestrians because it’s an outdated plan being used.  Stephen said he wasn’t aware of when it’s occurring off the top of his head, but could find out from Robert Westerman; a Whataburger and other things is being planned there.  Stephen noted that there’s a privately owned median that might be used for a car dealership; MPC would rather see only the Clark St. area used, and they’d be meticulous with how they approach access points. Nader’s Gallery has been sent drawings because they may be affected too.  Donna said doesn’t want anything on that previously unclaimed property.  Stephen said we can stay engaged in the process.  Loren said he will send an email to Stephen asking to be kept informed of when it’s being addressed.  He also said NLCOG will be the appropriate body to contact since Youree is a state highway.  We noted that Stephanie Pedro submitted concerns on this a while ago.

The Jimmie Davis bridge news that’s come out lately was mentioned as another concern.  It’s feared that they may have taken away the means of connecting the two riverside bike paths in Shreveport and Bossier.  There was concern over whether or not the money for the second span has been raised.

It was noted that it will be a continuing embarrassment to our city is that our bridges aren’t more bikeable and walkable, some of which could be fixed with minimal cost of restriping.  Bridge lanes could be put on diets as streets are, where their lanes are made slimmer; the result is both more space for bike lanes, and lower, safer automobile speeds.     

Feico has been working on the possibility of Hamilton Terrace.  It’s a former school, with nice old architecture and includes a gym, and spaces where there was a library and cafeteria.  Elsewhere, lots of such places have been made into buildings of cool loft style apartments.

The asking price has been reduced to just $650,000, down from the initial price of 1.4 million.

It was noted that area is at risk, with Doctor’s Hospital having closed.  Donna said the area to the south was once planned as being a sort of restaurant row.  There are a lot of good places there that produce quite a bit of revenue.  It’s a tax base that should be maintained and protected.

As a veteran community gardener, Maurice commented that living close to one’s garden is optimal, and that could be a possibility for Hamilton Terrace.  The pool has been filled in, and Josh mentioned that established techniques have been developed for converting former pools into highly productive gardens.  One man has documented doing that at his house.  He thought he’d be able to meet the entire fruit and vegetable needs of his family after three years, and it turns out he did in only six months.

It was noted that Tom Arceneaux has shown interest in developing this idea, and as a member of the city’s first city council, he’s a good partner to have for something like this.  

Stephen Jean recommended that we look in the Master Plan for “community plans”.  There’s a process that was laid out there for how to do a community plan.  It describes even how a neighborhood can do it itself, as well as the process to use for getting adopted.  Shreveport Common is an an example of a recent community plan that’s been adopted.  We might consider whether or not we want to have one for the area around Hamilton Terrace.  A group can do their own without paying for it.  We can embark on it and along the way get MPC’s help in how to navigate the process.  Other cities done the kind of purposeful development that we’re talking about here.  They’re called, urban villages; enterprise zones, or planning districts.  The idea is often to develop an ecosystem of residence, work, and leisure, with restaurants and retail developing out of that.  Another potential area is the MLK area where Southern University is located nearby.  Anywhere there’s a job center amid a neighborhood is a candidate for being planned to become an urban village.  Kings Highway had developed a plan as an urban village but the merchants at the time rose up against it.

MPC and ABS have reached out to Shreveport Green, and we were glad to have Donna with us again today.  Donna said she was awed by the idea.  As part of jumping in to work on it, she’s been thinking of the challenges we’d need to meet along the way: the cost, the rights and sensitivity of homeowners, etc.

Stephen Jean said he gave a presentation to the city department heads today and circulated the handout he distributed to them, and that is a model of what might be distributed to residents to solicit their participation.  The handout describes how the program is designed to get input from residents on where they want trails by surveying where people have put wildflower seed.  Among the points made in the hand out:
when: getting seeds out late fall or winter for visibility of spring flowers
where: along public streets, alleys, and other city property such as parks and medians
this opportunity comes only once a year
if on private streets, always get permission from the homeowners association
be careful on busy streets or avoid them all together -- we need to know how to connect to them
concentrate on where you’d LIKE to ride, run, or walk, instead of where you do now

It’s a nice flier, with bright colors and the cheerful ending, “Thank you for participating and… Happy Trails!”

The department heads raised a lot of the same points raised by Donna in emails between this week.

Mowing: We’ll have to figure it out; Stephen gave the department heads two weeks for comments.  The CAO made some practicial comments similar to Donna’s; Dale Sibley thought it could be good; getting the community involved in coming up with practical solutions; we’ve got open minds moving forward with this.  
   Once it’s going, we’ll have to understand the mowing schedules in these areas so we can survey and document somehow where the flowers are.
   It was noted that even it they’re there for a week, it makes a visual demonstration.  Loren noted that it’s also a “push” medium where it’s pushed before you in the environment, as opposed to a “pull” medium where you have to go and pull it from some other place to see it, like from the internet, a newspaper article, etc.

Locations: We’re asking that people do it on state highways, which are the domain of NLCOG.  NLCOG is working on a bike-ped component to their new transportation plan, but it’s those connections within the city are what MPC can help with.  

Homeowners: although we’d only be asking that people use public right-of-ways, some property owners might welcome paths being installed along edges of their property.  There are areas that need connections which residents would appreciate.  

Cost: It’s going to be significant money because of the cost of seeds.  If we can get a non-profit involved, like Shreveport Green, it would allow people to make donations.  Donna noted that they already have a wildflower fund, and an account could be created out of that.  Donna also said some people who’ve made significant donations in the past are realtors; instead of giving an address stamp to a buyer of a new property, they’ve donated to the wildflower fund in that buyer’s name.
   Donna reviewed some of the characteristics and prices she’d researched on wildflower seeds.  Beyond noting the price, it’s useful to look at the rate that seeds yield flowers, and whether they come back, since we may or may not want those that last beyond one year.
  • Poppies: sow them in november, won’t come back, $25 per pound
  • Cosmos: rarely come back, can seed any time (they’re at Fern and 70th), 80% yield rate
  • Bachelor’s Buttons: don’t come back and are tall, but expensive
  • Blue Bonnets: started on the parkway until we got a lot of water and they mowed them
  • Texas Paint brush: $425/lb.; 40% survive

   Donna also noted that she has tons of daffodil bulbs; Maurice said they’re perfect because they’re not in mowing season, they come back; they’re bulbs to you plant them.  The daffodils could be the permanent markers whereas some of the other wildflowers once cut won’t come back.

Status: as the Interim Director of the Metropolitan Planning Commission, Stephen Jean was happy to report that the proposal was approved and this is now an official MPC project!  That means they’ll be working on it with community organizations, such as ABetterShreveport and Shreveport Green.  The group expressed it’s happiness!

Next steps: Stephen said he’ll be getting back to the office to figure out various details.  Donna will be persuasive with her organization but was they won’t need much persuasion and will be behind it.  ABetterShreveport and anyone else can begin to scout trails that we want, studying the map of street routes Stephen and Maurice have made, and finding where two routes would be connecting with a trail.

No comments: