Archive for Thursday, August 10, 2006

City: Downtown tree grates win out over planters

Pilot project shows pedestrians have more space to walk

August 10, 2006


Walkers one, dogs zero.

City crews have completed a pilot project in the 600 block of Massachusetts Street designed to give walkers more room to maneuver on downtown sidewalks by removing the small cement curbs that surround trees.

"Those miniplanters were probably a good idea as a concept, but as a practical matter, you couldn't grow anything in them, they were trampled upon and they seemed to be used as a restroom by every dog in the area," said City Commissioner David Schauner.

So, Schauner, several months ago, proposed a project to test the effectiveness of "tree grates." The tree grates are slotted, metal plates that surround the base of the tree. Their main advantage is they're flush with the sidewalk, unlike the planters, which extended above the sidewalk about 6 to 8 inches.

The flush surface allows pedestrians to again use that part of the sidewalk, adding 2 to 3 feet of walkable space.

"I think these will provide better use of our sidewalks," Schauner said. "A sidewalk really should be designed for people to walk on."

The tree grates also keep all the soil below the surface of the plate, which eliminates the piles of dirt and mulch that had become attractive targets of canine visitors.

The city has determined that grates, instead of planters, are better for downtown because they give walkers more room. The grates also keep the soil contained.

The city has determined that grates, instead of planters, are better for downtown because they give walkers more room. The grates also keep the soil contained.

City crews last week removed two of the tree planters on the east side of the 600 block of Massachusetts Street and replaced them with the tree grates.

Mark Hecker, parks superintendent for the city's Parks and Recreation Department, said the grates appeared to have promise.

"With the evolution of outdoor dining in downtown, we do have more businesses that are taking up some of the sidewalk space," Hecker said. "This will help that."

But if the city wants to replace all of the tree planters with the grates, it will be a major undertaking. Hecker said the city paid $1,100 apiece for the two tree grates. The city has 300 to 400 trees in the downtown area that could be candidates for the grates.

"It would be a pretty substantial investment if you wanted to do all of it, and it would be a major construction project," Hecker said.

Schauner, though, said there's no need for the city to undertake a major project. He said the city should just spend $10,000 to $15,000 at a time and allow city crews to install the grates as their schedules permit.

The tree grates wouldn't require the removal of any of the larger planters at the corners or near crosswalks. Those planters hold trees and flowers. The city this year started a new beautification program designed to add more year-round color to those planters. The city also has plans this fall to replace about 15 trees that have been cut down in the downtown area because of disease.


lunacydetector 11 years, 10 months ago

"sure, what's $10,000 to $15,000 amongst friends anyway? har, har" - bill gates lighting a cigar with MONEY., if only there was that 1% sales tax, this thing would've been done yesterday.

i'm still trying to figure out where the $90,000 in flowers went. where did they plant those darn things in the downtown? anyone know? are they in a bed surrounded by curbs? would they die if the curbs were removed, if they are surrounded by curbs anyway? would they live with a grate dropped on them, that is, if they are surrounded by curbs in the first place that needed to be removed?

were the $1,100 tree grates placed on the fritzel side of the block or the simons side of the block? the simons side might give schauner some free p.r.

..all these questions...mulling around. see what the smoking ban has brought us? expensive tree grates. smokers need a place to throw their butts and the city crews will look busy digging them out. when i was a liberal democrat i would consider the smoking ban/outdoor smoking/tree grate over a curb bed with flowers, a VERY cost effective way of spending our tax dollars.

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 10 months ago

I am no dog hater or any thing but downtown is not a place for dogs for many reasons and to many people being at the top. So why is it that our city has to spend money on a complete waste of time and money? Has anyone complained that there is not enough room? that the side walks as is is a danger? Just what is the good reason for this waste?

craigers 11 years, 10 months ago

$1100 for tree grates? Are they made out of sterling silver. They should do a fundraiser that citizens can come downtown and crush one of the planters curbs with a sledgehammer. Now that would be fun.

justthefacts 11 years, 10 months ago

Why yes they do, apparently.

Earth to city leaders -


For example - do NOT spend money tearing out planters just so people can have more room on sidewalks; if a planter falls apart, replace it with a grate. IF you put in new trees, replace it with a grate. But do NOT touch anything that isn't broke, to make "improvements".

Many of us can't afford new anything - additions to our homes, new cars, replacement clothing, etc.... So if we can't pay for things like that, you city leaders need to stop overspending too! Just keep the streets free of pot holes and call it a day!!

Good grief people; do none of you have to follow budgets at your homes!??

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 10 months ago


It sounds to me that such a phased replacement is essentially what Shauner proposed.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 10 months ago

Another way to fund it, once sidewalk seating-area permits are issued again, is to have those businesses kick in part or all of the costs for the planters in front of those businesses.

monkeyhawk 11 years, 10 months ago

Perhaps these are the intended consequences of the smoking ban. Maybe I have not given our leaders enough credit for being forward thinking. If dog poop and pee was the only reason for the need of flush grating, wouldn't it be simpler to just ban dogs downtown? Are canines the only entity using the trees for relief?

So, let's say the city sees how purdy the new grates look and decide to do all the trees. At $1100 per, take the low end of 300 trees, that amounts to $330,000. That is on top of $250,000 for tax payer subsidizing of privately owned businesses' sprinklers.

Posted by cork (anonymous) on August 9, 2006 at 11:24 a.m.

"PS... I'm not a student. I just work downtown and it's amazing how much slower business is during the summer. If it remained like this all year I have no doubt that most of the businesses would go under."

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 10 months ago

It's also funny that those who like to spell it "Kommission" are the ones who would apparently prefer that Lawrence look like E. Berlin circa 1975.

jogger 11 years, 10 months ago

I thought the original point of the tall planters was to give shoppers conversational that its illegal to stop and chat with friends, perhaps it is better that we also pay to remove the planters....

Besides, that will leave more room for sleeping bags this winter.

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 10 months ago

It is a waste of money no matter how you look at it. This type of waste is pointless the city is going to be broke then what?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 10 months ago

"I thought the original point of the tall planters "

That's not the ones they are contemplating removing. Read the article again.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 10 months ago

That looks good, blue73harley. Hope the city looks into it.

monkeywrench1969 11 years, 10 months ago

I agree with Bozo...the downtown business needs to take some finacial and physical responsiblility to the property in front of their business. Anyone who owns a home in town has to care for and be responsible for the ten feet fromthe curb in front of the home even though it is city right of way...why not make the business take up some of the cost as well.

belle 11 years, 10 months ago

I think the tree gates are ugly. Waste of resources.

Kathleen Christian 11 years, 10 months ago

Didn't they just put in those planters a few years back? Now they are going to spend money changing them AGAIN? Money that could be spent on other things this town has been complaining about like potholes in the roads and cracked sidewalks. Give it a break people, what are you bored or something? Is there a plether of mad money that you MUST spend? Oh, that right we must keep up the IMAGE of Lawrence we're going to be in a CBS special. It's all about IMAGE. Yet there is no money for what really counts - our best resources - OUR CHILDREN. For instance: All day kindergarten, public school paid busing and text books. The planter look fine just keep them up or as the other guy was saying put the grates in as repairs are needed. It may take a couple of years but at least you're not spending money that can be use for more important things this year. Yea, is there a budget the commission follows?

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 10 months ago

well how about the old saying "if it ain't broke don't fix it"? seems like a waste of money and time.

KsTwister 11 years, 10 months ago

OMG now we will have to pay for the ammonia and fertilizer after the plants use up all the nutrients in the soil. .. ...and to think they were getting free donations.

Confrontation 11 years, 10 months ago

It could be worse. The city could be paying $15,000 each for worthless tree grate sculptures designed by horrible local artists.

justthefacts 11 years, 10 months ago

I said "if a planter falls apart, replace it with a grate..... and was told that is the plan....

So is the "phased replacement" being proposed only going to happen when/if the planters are in disrepair? How many are falling apart? They seemed in great shape last time I sat on one.... OR is the "phasing" being triggered by another event - e.g. we're working on that part of the street/sidewalk, so take it out now?

irnmadn88 11 years, 10 months ago

I see more cars hung up on the low planters causing body damage because the idiot driver thinks that when the tire touches the curb, the car is parked.

I am surprised that dogs are the scapegoat here. I do walk my dog downtown on occasion, but not when the pavement has been heated up by the sun nor when high pedestrian traffic is expected.

Richard Heckler 11 years, 10 months ago

The current planter system certainly is fun for children. They love using those planters for balance beams. Children just seem to go for it like a magnet.

Children love climbing on the tall planters as well. Maybe not since the sweet potato vines are looking good.

justthefacts 11 years, 10 months ago

"I'm in favor of not spending any money that's not basically infrastructure related. Our streets need repair, and our sewer and water systems need up-dating and repair. Those things need to come first. Round-abouts, planters, and sculptures can come later."


Just like with a family that is trying NOT to run up credit debt - you have to prioritize spending so that you are not spending more money then you make and are taking care of the most important things first, before moving onto spend extra money for extra things!

It would be simply wonderful if money grew on trees (or would it?) - but since it doesn't.....

Most people (me especially) cannot afford to add one more thin dime of expense into their budget (NO MORE NEW FEES/TAXES).

City leaders should TAKE A HINT and stop looking for ways to promote and fund "Fun" and "improvements" and "helpful" and "Good ideas" and spend money on ONLY what is needed to keep the city up and operating!!!

If they don't, the city, the county, the state and the country (along with all of us) are going to go bankrupt!

kmat 11 years, 10 months ago

Has anyone taken a good look at the picture of these grates? They think these will keep dogs from peeing on the trees? It's not like the dogs can't walk on the grates. This city has gone insane.

To all you dog haters that want to ban dogs from downtown - I say ban your children from downtown because they are annoying and make messes and disturb the peace. There are always so many junior high age kids hanging out down there. Aren't you parents concerned about your children just hanging out in an area packed with bars and homeless people?

When the weather is nice I walk my dog downtown quite often. I don't allow him to go to the bathroom there, but he loves the people (and he is well known to many businesses that keep treats for him when we visit). There is no reason why a well behaved dog can't be downtown, as long as the pavement isn't too hot or too cold. And when we go downtown, we spend money. I think the businesses are more than happy to let people walk their well behaved dogs when you're spending money in their stores.

classclown 11 years, 10 months ago

How often would we have to pay to put new grates in to accommodate tree growth?

lubyloo 11 years, 10 months ago

Maybe instead of roundabouts, we should have grates in the intersections so there would be more room to drive.

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