Archive for Sunday, November 27, 2011

Architect wants to create downtown trail under Kansas River bridges

Robinson Park just west of Lawrence City Hall, south of the Kansas River Bridge includes a rock monument honoring Lawrence’s founders.

Robinson Park just west of Lawrence City Hall, south of the Kansas River Bridge includes a rock monument honoring Lawrence’s founders.

November 27, 2011


Mike Myers, east Lawrence resident and architect, is proposing a new downtown trail that would travel along the west side of Lawrence City Hall, underneath both Kansas River bridges and into Constant Park at Sixth and Tennessee streets.

Mike Myers, east Lawrence resident and architect, is proposing a new downtown trail that would travel along the west side of Lawrence City Hall, underneath both Kansas River bridges and into Constant Park at Sixth and Tennessee streets.

To Mike Myers’ way of thinking, the little spot between the two downtown Kansas River bridges is one of the more interesting locations in Lawrence.

From this spot just north of Sixth and Massachusetts — officially known as Robinson Park — the converging lines of the Kansas River bridges play tricks on your eyes and let you see the slow-moving Kaw in new ways.

Plus, the park has a cannon. That’s always cool.

“I really like finding unique, out-of-the way places, and this is one of them,” Myers said.

Just down the embankment, the spot underneath the Kansas River bridges is unique, too, but not for the type of sights you would put on a visitors brochure. The day Myers walked the area with a City Hall official, they found a person sleeping underneath the bridge.

But Myers, a longtime east Lawrence resident and an architect, is pushing an idea he thinks could bring new life to both locations. Myers has begun lobbying for a new downtown trail that would travel along the west side of Lawrence City Hall, underneath both Kansas River bridges and into Constant Park at Sixth and Tennessee streets. From there, folks could make the short walk across the grassy park and connect with an existing riverside trail that runs through Burcham Park.

A lot of Myers’ excitement, though, is for what could happen in between the two river bridges. Myers is proposing the trail include a new entrance to Robinson Park, which in addition to the cannon includes a pioneer monument telling the story of the founding of the city. Myers envisions a new outlook area could be built for visitors to gaze upon the river.

Plus, Myers is pitching that the trail will have practical purposes. He said the trail would be an easier way for bicyclists and pedestrians to navigate the confluence of intersections near Sixth and Massachusetts streets — well, easier if anyone feels safe traveling beneath the bridges and into territory that has gained a reputation as a hangout for the homeless and transients.

But Myers said a trail could help solve that problem, too. He said the project would give the city a reason to put lighting under the trail and add some fencing that would make it difficult for people to take shelter in the deep crevices of the structure.

“To my sensibilities, it makes sense to bring people and community life to that area to discourage some of the more nefarious activities that happen there,” Myers said.

Facing challenges

Myers has been presenting the plan to various city officials, including the Bicycle Advisory Commission and city engineers. City engineers and planners have stopped short of endorsing the idea, but they’ve said the idea has some appeal.

“It would be really nice if we could figure out a way to make it work,” said Todd Girdler, the city’s senior transportation planner.

But the project would have some significant engineering challenges, said Chuck Soules, the city’s director of public works. Because of the steep terrain near City Hall, a retaining wall would have to be built to accommodate a trail. The proximity to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks, which run behind City Hall, also could be a problem.

“Their goal is not to have pedestrians near their train tracks,” Soules said. “I think there would be some concerns we would have to overcome there.”

Then, there is funding. Neither Myers nor city officials have developed a cost estimate for the project. Both parties said grant funding likely would have to play a significant role in making the project a reality. Soules said there are some grant projects that fund pedestrian and bicycle projects, but he said the city would have to study the project to determine whether it should be a higher priority than other projects, such as filling in gaps in the city’s existing sidewalk system.

‘A real benefit’

Myers, though, said he intends to keep working on building support. He said he would like the trail to be the first phase of a larger project that would create a new trail through east Lawrence, connecting with the existing Burroughs Creek Trail near Hobbs Park.

That project could travel along property east of the former Riverfront Mall and north of the Santa Fe Depot at Seventh and New Jersey streets. The area has a conservation easement on it that dates back to the controversial construction of the mall. The easement strictly prohibits development of the property, including a trail. But Myers said the conservation easement has been a detriment to the property by making it so isolated that problems with homeless encampments have emerged.

“I’ve talked to people who even fought the mall who don’t think that conservation easement has worked out well,” Myers said. “We don’t want it developed, but we don’t want what we have now, which is basically a place to get in trouble.”

Myers, though, said he’s taking a long-term approach to the idea.

“I would love to see the whole thing happen within 10 years,” Myers said. “I don’t know how much the taxpayer is willing to pay or how much grant money there is. But I think it could be a real benefit. You really notice when a city takes advantage of its riverfront, and we haven’t done that very well.”


gutenberg 6 years, 1 month ago

R. Buckminster Fuller observed that architecture shapes our behavior. I applaud Mr Myers proposal to bring form and structure to the riverbank, park, and walkway beneath the bridges. Kudos for your suggestions, Mr Myers.

giveitback 6 years, 1 month ago

Agreed! Good idea. Take a trip to Omaha, St Louis, Portland to just mention a few and see what they have done with the river banks.

flyin_squirrel 6 years, 1 month ago

Build it! Take advantage of the river views!

Richard Heckler 6 years, 1 month ago

This is one step towards connecting trails to one another in an effort that "takes one somewhere" by way of trail to trail.

Let's not kid ourselves the city has money to do this. It's more of whether or not they want to do it. When city hall decides a project is to their liking money magically surfaces. Developers know this quite well and it works for them. The rest of us have to wait for grant money or stimulus money instead of being allowed to apply OUR LOCAL TAX DOLLARS to a worthwhile endeavor.

The 1% sales tax Park Department money could easily accomplish this trail which my best guess says taxpayers would vote to approve use of this money for the trail. Sooner rather than later.

Instead of blowing millions upon millions upon millions upon millions upon millions of this sales tax money on a monster westside rec center.

This is one of those projects that in the big picture is not expensive at all. And would provide more outdoor low budget exercise space for tax paying citizens.

While the plan may lack "engineering" it is obvious that Mike Myers devoted some thought into a plan that could travel through the eastside "condo warehouse" project thus connecting to Hobbs Park hooking up with the existing Burroughs Creek Trail.

This would be a fun run,walk or cycling experience.

Terry Sexton 6 years, 1 month ago

Fantastic idea! We just returned from Knoxville where we celebrated Thanksgiving with family. We visited their Market Square in the middle of downtown Knoxville. It is an area closed to auto traffic where events & concerts are held. Currently, they have a small & temporary ice skating rink there. We were there Friday evening to watch the many musical acts entertain the crowd for the opening of the Holiday season. The square is lined with stores & eateries & attracts thousands upon thousands of people every year. I It made us wish that Lawrence could do something similarly unique. This trail proposal coupled with the proposed North Lawrence development sounds like just the ticket. Yay for doers & innovators!

vuduchyld 6 years, 1 month ago

While we're at it, how about a trail that goes NORTH from Burcham Park along that west bank of the river and connects it to the I-70 bridge? Basically, it wouldn't cost much to make a trail just like the one between Constant Park and Burcham Park, but going north to the bridge.

If we spent a little money on a pedestrian bridge under I-70, we could have a fantastic loop. You could start at Robinson or Constant Park, cruise to Burcham, north to I-70, across the river, then back on the levee trail to the north side of the bridge, then over the North 2nd Street bridge to Vermont.

Hadley_says 6 years, 1 month ago

Once that trail hits the municipal property line, it is either state land if next to the river, or private land if farther away from river, until it hits KTA property line. An easement or property purchase would be necessary in either case, in addition to easement from KTA. An easement from the state would require passage of a state law, which was also required when original Burcham park trail was created.

Sunny Parker 6 years, 1 month ago

More tax payer dollars! No thank you! You got your $18 mil library...isn't that enough?

displacedsunflower 6 years, 1 month ago

Here in central LA there is a riverside walkway/trail on both sides of the river, in each town bordering the river. One of the towns has many activities along the levee.

My dad's parents settled along & near the DG/FR counties line in the 1850s. Their names are listed on the Old Settlers rock monument in the riverside park, and I have a picture of them sitting among the group in front of the monument at the dedication of it in the [1920s, I think]. My dad may have gone with his parents, by wagon (which was their mode of transportation).

Clark Coan 6 years, 1 month ago

The legislature granted the City of Lawrence a trail easement to the turnpike. The remember seeing the statute.

Great idea to go east of the the old Riverfront Mall to connect with a northern extension of the Burroughs Creek Trail.

sad_lawrencian 6 years, 1 month ago

Mr. Myers, shame on you sir. Instead of worrying about building nature trails, you should be focusing your efforts on making the next Austin Powers movie, or perhaps even a Wayne's World reunion film. Just my $.02 worth. Thank you very much.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 1 month ago

Granting "Downtown Zoning" to North Lawrence may well bring higher taxes for retail properties in North Lawrence either soon or certainly in the near future. Grab your wallets

Downtown Lawrence is a market place needing promotion. The trail concept is icing on the cake.

The new Johnny's in and itself could provide plenty of entertainment. Plenty of comfort with new river view patio's and live music in the background. Johnny's in and of itself and by itself could become an even larger gold mine.

A grocery store,hardware store and laundromat would be a huge contribution to North Lawrence. And a money maker aka "Johnny's North Lawrence Community Center"

I say a grocery store, hardware store and laundromat would have kept Tanger Mall alive as a retail center,

Knoxville is way way way way larger than Lawrence,Kansas. As of the 2000 United States Census, Knoxville had a total population of 173,890; the July 2007 estimated population was 183,546.

Knoxville is the principal city of the Knoxville Metropolitan Statistical Area with a metro population of 655,400. These types of metro areas usually can provide long term employment opportunity. And higher wages.

About Knoxville Knoxville TN, is a rapidly growing city accessible from an international waterway. Knoxville is located just outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is home to The University of Tennessee Volunteer sports teams and the Knoxville Ice Bears.

Knoxville Tennessee.. Metropolitan Knoxville was recently ranked the "best place to live in the United States and Canada" among cities with a population of fewer than 1 million. With the incredible natural surroundings, Knoxville is a truly special place to live.

Face it walking to North Lawrence can be a hassle because of the 6th and Mass intersection.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 1 month ago

So what did copy pasting some text about Knoxville have to do with this story, merrill?

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