about corridors and trail as connections (and some background history lessons)

History Lesson
John Kinsella realized on his first solo bike ride that there are issues and opportunities around machines and people sharing the right-of-way.

Minneapolis…..age 5.....halfway around the block and not yet knowing how 2-wheel bike coaster brakes work, he made an ethical choice. Run into a strolling elderly couple’s backsides or crash into one of many stately elms then residing between sidewalk and curb. The couple continued on their blissful stroll, clueless about what had not hit them. John hit the elm; it survived, until Dutch Elm Disease caused it and much of the Minneapolis urban forest canopy to be replaced in the 1970’s by ash trees (which will soon be replaced as well).

John survived the elm encounter as well, living on to establish storrow|kinsella with partner Meg Storrow to plan and design (safe) trails and walkable, bikeable, connected places. So for one-half of the partnership it all started by accident on that city sidewalk in Minneapolis and  by the early experience of that city’s wonderful parks and boulevard open space system. Meg’s story about formative years and genetic influence will come in another installment…it will be much more interesting and worth the wait.

That influencing Minneapolis system had been christened the Grand Rounds. It began with the 1883 “suggestions” plan by landscape architect Horace Cleveland (see the adjacent map) and was largely developed between 1907 and 1936 by landscape architects Warren Manning and Theodore Wirth, the long-term parks director. The plan’s Chain of Lakes was John’s neighborhood. The paths and parkways linking his southwestside neighborhood to Lake of the Isles, Lake Calhoun, and along Minnehaha Creek to the Mississippi River gorge was largely completed then, embedding in his psyche the sense of trails and open space within an urban setting as an entitlement. The early part of the Grand Rounds’ 130-year development to its magnificent extents today (it is a regional park and a national scenic byway) provides lots of lessons….one being that great places do not happen overnight. They start with deep insights of enlightened patron/skilled designer relationships, but become real through dedicated and committed effort over time by an engaged community. The other lesson is that early experiences, accidental or not, matter. Flash forward to our early and ongoing trail work that demonstrates that long term project commitment and depth of experience matter.

Columbus. IN Jonathon Moore Pike Concept Sketch

1986-1994:  Columbus Front Door Corridor
storrow|kinsella began its practice in Columbus Indiana. The studio’s first major commission was to scope out that small city’s connection to the world from the two-mile distant Interstate 65. One of our design heroes, landscape architect Dan Kiley, had developed an earlier planting of pop-up willows that quickly and effectively established the visual sense of an entryway corridor across the Driftwood and East Fork White Rivers’ flood plain. But the formally arranged massive planting of whip willows ultimately declined, being a fast-growing but short lived species not attuned to the glacial outwash soils of the floodplain. We prepared a replacement plan, but one that looked well beyond landscape restoration to consider a comprehensive multimodal corridor and reimagined transportation infrastructure. The strategy would leverage typical roadway investment cycles of rehabilitation and reconstruction to establish major improvements to the roadway to realize its multimodal potential and to establish a sense of arrival and place.

The plan envisioned infrastructure-scaled elements including new bridges to address functional and condition issues while creating dramatic new entry points both from the interstate as well as into downtown.  A shared-use path would link downtown to the Tipton Lakes planned community immediately west of but separated from downtown by the Interstate exit   A probing conversation between storrow|kinsella and the INDOT District commisioner about how highway improvements are programmed and funded led to a key enabling strategy: defer recurring non-critical maintenance projects while advancing major reconstruction projects such that they converge to allow greater magnitude of scope and investment towards a more comprehensive corridor improvement.  Thus a planned but ordinary bridge reconstruction that didn’t address pedestrian/bike connectivity passage would become an entryway landmark that also reconnected separated elements of the community.  The concept resonated with state and federal highway planners and it galvanized community leaders to champion an integrated transportation-based entryway project.

storrow|kinsella was retained through most of what ultimately became a multi-year multidisciplinary evolving team process. It resulted in a nationally recognized entryway corridor, and a new entry configuration that has shaped subsequent downtown development. The plan’s included trail winds through the floodplain and passes uninterrupted through the Interstate 65 ramp area and its iconic red cable-stayed bridge designed by Jean Muller. Implementation funding was secured by a special Federal Demonstration Project that anticipated the pending Federal Highway Act: the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) of 1991. That legislation encouraged bicycle/pedestrian projects, highway beautification, and flexibility in planning, all hallmarks of the entryway plan, and not accidental.

Publication: The Leveraging of Infrastructure Renewal to Create an Interstate Front Door was presented by Meg Storrow and John Kinsella at the 1997 American Society of Landscape Architects Annual Meeting in Atlanta Georgia, and was published under the category of Landscape Architecture in the Civic Realm in the Proceedings of that annual national conference of landscape architects.

1991-2003: Pigeon Creek Greenway Passage and Parks Open Space Master Plans: Evansville, Indiana
Shortly after ISTEA was enacted, storrow|kinsella was commissioned by the Evansville Department of Parks and Recreation to prepare a master plan for the city’s long-standing dream for a greenway that would follow the flood protection levees along Pigeon Creek and the Ohio River.  The plan was to be an update of an abandoned Army Corps of Engineers plan for a recreational component to its levee system.  An even more ambitious concept resulted: a greenway ring around the city with additional network connectivity to key parks and open space resources.  The more comprehensive plan was a working vision plan that supported our grant writing efforts that secured over six million dollars of federal Transportation Enhancement funds over several funding cycles.

Subsequent efforts in support of the greenway plan included a Parks and Open Space Master Plan that integrated the concept into the overall parks system, securing critical right-of way along the now abandoned rail corridor, and negotiating an agreement with INDOT/FHWA to share an interstate right-of-way for the trail. That concept, groundbreaking at the time, has since been incorporated into FHWA’s interstate planning policy, though rarely utilized to date. The storrow|kinsella studio prepared detailed design and construction documents for multiple constructed phases of the greenway including the initial Pigeon Creek sections and the $10 million downtown riverfront levee and esplanade sections, managing permitting and environmental processes as well. Unfortunately the city allowed the interstate agreement to expire. Hopefully that will be revisited since it would facilitate a powerful trail experience along the expansive flood plain between downtown Evansville and Angel Mounds and Newburgh six miles upriver.

Publication: Evansville, Indiana: A Process Driven Evolution from Rust Belt Ohio River Town towards the Vision of a City within a Park was presented by Meg Storrow and John Kinsella at the 1998 American Society of Landscape Architects Annual Meeting in Portland, Oregon. It was published under the category of Public Lands in the Proceedings of that annual national conference of landscape architects. 

B&O Trailhead at Raceway Road

1998-2015: B&O Rail-to-Trail /Hendricks County
storrow|kinsella has been assisting the B&O Trail Association (BOTA) and its affiliate, Hendricks County Trail Development, Inc. (HCTDA) for seventeen years, in planning, securing funding and implementing multiple phases of this sixteen-mile long Rail-Trail endeavor.  The effort began with the 1998 master plan and environmental study, prepared by storrow|kinsella and Pflum Klausmeier & Gehrum, for the overall B&O corridor between Indianapolis and the Wabash River at Montezuma, near the Indiana-Illinois line.  storrow|kinsella has since prepared design and construction documents for the inaugural DNR-funded trail section that begins at the county’s east boundary with Marion County (Indianapolis). The studio wrote a successful ARRA grant application and prepared the design and construction documents for the trail’s second built section funded by that federal stimulus program. Bids have recently been let by INDOT for yet another section of trail that is scheduled for construction in 2015-16. It will include a two-span weathering steel truss structure over scenic White Lick Creek that utilizes the railroad’s historic buttresses and piers.

The accomplishments of volunteer-led BOTA  and HCDTA over a span of nearly twenty years are becoming apparent as their vision becomes reality, one segment at a time.  That vision has proven prescient in that the largely agricultural Hendricks County is being rapidly developed both as a suburb but also as more self-sustaining communities. One such community, Brownsburg, has decided to purchase completed segments of the trail within its jurisdiction as a means of extending the reach and connectivity the trail offers to the Brownsburg park system and the growing population it serves. Those purchases reimburse BOTA for its local match funds that have leveraged significant state and federal grants to purchase right-of-way and to build trail sections. The new funds allow BOTA/HCDTA to continue on with its trail building mission in Hendricks County and beyond. 

Eagle Creek Greenway Phase 1 Isometric Master Plan

1998-2005: Eagle Creek Greenway Comprehensive Project Report, Indianapolis
storrow|kinsella prepared this scoping document that is guiding development of this sixteen mile long corridor that generally follows a flood control levee from Eagle Creek Park and Reservoir to the White River on the Indianapolis Westside. The document provides very detailed strategies for integrating a continuous shared use path with a variety of technically challenging levee and bridge conditions. The studio led a successful public engagement process to establish the preferred alignment and prepared design and construction documents for the constructed 1.5 mile inaugural section between 56th Street at Eagle Creek Park and 46th Street. That section included design of a fourteen-field youth soccer complex and associated constructed naturalized wetlands. The trail courses through clusters of playing fields grouped within “rooms” defined by the hedgerows of earlier agricultural fields. A compacted stone dust path provides an additional walking/running circuit around the soccer complex. South of the soccer fields, the trail follows a sweeping  meander along a reintroduced prairie of native grass that visually isolates it from suburban subdivisions. storrow|kinsella gained Army Corp of Engineer permits. The soccer field complex 's drainage component of four constructed wetland basins, designed within the studio, was one of the first such permitted activities under stringent new Marion County clean-water act mandated drainage regulations. This "trail" project has become a much used spatial extension of Eagle Creek Park. Its further extension to the White River Greenway and a planned future connection to the B&O Rrail-trail corridor will make this network truly regional in scope.

2000-2015: Pennsy Rail-to-Trail: Indianapolis
storrow|kinsella began its multiple projects for the Pennsy Trail corridor, between Marion County’s eastern border and its extension to Pleasant Run in Irvington, with a scoping report that established the overall trail concept and its design parameters. Additional detailed alignment design established the basis for acquisition extents and the associated NEPA environmental process, the latter prepared in partnership with Shrewsbury and Associates. storrow|kinsella subsequently prepared design and construction documents including identity elements, informed by a rigorous public engagement process, for the corridor’s first 1.25 mile-long DNR funded trail section between Shortridge Road and Arlington Avenue. It was completed in 2010. The studio is currently completing the right-of-way acquisition process for the balance of the 56 parcels that comprise the overall corridor, coordinating an expert team of right-of-way engineers, appraisers and buyers. When completed the seven-mile long trail will provide a much needed amenity and economic development stimulus for the Washington Street corridor of the challenged Indianapolis eastside.

2004-2014: French Lick/West Baden Springs and SR 56 Corridor connectivity
storrow|kinsella was planning and context sensitive design lead in association with Hannum Wagle & Cline engineers for this project that began in support of the two towns’ interface with INDOT regarding a proposed state highway reconstruction project. Proposed improvements to SR 56 were intended to accommodate traffic generated by a new “riverboat” gaming destination that was being developed in conjunction with restoration of two historic resort hotels that flourished in the 1920-30’s but that had fallen into disrepair. Conventional highway design was felt to compromise the historic resort character that the area was attempting to restore through anticipated distribution of gaming revenue taxes.

The corridor study resulted in the road being designed and constructed according to complete streets principles with reduced travel lanes, wide separated sidewalks and segments of traffic-calming medians. The plan successfully demonstrated the economies, roadway capacity sufficiency and traffic calming benefit of rehabilitating the existing  concrete arch bridge as a two travel-lane plus separated shared bicycle-pedestrian path, rather than constructing a new, and costlier, four-lane bridge at the entry to West Baden Springs that would have had no pedestrian component.  storrow|kinsella prepared preliminary designs to guide INDOT's engineering consultants for the bridge, roadway geometrics, and for the retaining walls along the corridor. While those designs were incorporated based on their technically sound best practices  for roadway design, the intended collateral benefit of corridor aesthetics, identity and traffic calming was their major achievement. Ironically, our attempt to maintain the two-lane configuration through two major intersections by the use of urban roundabouts was supported by INDOT transportation planners but opposed by historic preservation advocates based on those devices not having historic "provenance". Our argument that four to five-lane signalized intersections did not respect historic street scale was unsuccessful. 

The corridor plan also recommended that both towns undertake additional initiatives concurrent with the road reconstruction to strengthen their then-disconnected relationship to the resort area, and to create the sense of the Springs Valley being one connected place, with the following results:

French Lick Town Center Development: node along a connectivity network
The corridor plan recommendations resulted in agreements with INDOT for a set of roadway enhancements more in context with the still present historic context.  The plans larger recommendations led to the Town of French Lick having the same consultant team prepare development concepts for the unsightly area of fast food franchises and parking lots that separated the town from the soon to be restored historic resort area. The ensuing strategies and detailed plans were successful in bringing in a mixed use development of shops, restaurants, and a health care clinic, with housing above, fronting a new town green bordered by pedestrian-oriented social streets, and with most parking behind the shops. A broad tree-lined esplanade set back from the state highway now passes through the development to merge with the town’s sidewalk grid beyond, effectively reconnecting the old town with the resort.  Colorful wayfinding and interpretive signage has been extended throughout the corridor, while intersection gateway elements, interactive water and lighting features and a landscape continuum encourage walking between the elements of town and resort.   A new trail links the resorts and the towns. The Cook Group, owner of the resorts, is developing a trolley that will follow former rail lines to provide even more connectivity options. 

West Baden Springs Entryway, Greenway and Visitors Trailhead Park
The Town of West Baden Springs commissioned storrow|kinsella to develop the recommendations generated at a conceptual level for that town’s section of the SR 56 corridor. The narrowed bridge over the Lost River became the basis for paired gateway towers linked by an overhead signage truss that also allows occasional overhead banner deployment for special events. The towers are an abstraction of the historic architecture of the resorts beyond. A vacant parcel just beyond has become a lushly planted visitors’ information trailhead parking court, extending that architectural character with a tile-roofed red-orange gazebo and pergola. A half-mile long shared use path with periodic overlook nodes leads from there to the West Baden Springs Hotel grounds and beyond to connect to the road project’s new sidewalks and ultimately to French Lick. The trail segment passing through the hotel entrance area provided an opportunity to not only develop a garden space but also to successfully negotiate removal of unsightly overhead utilities that marred the grand entrance to the hotel.