Members and supporters of the Ladd Arboretum Committee pushed Monday night for crushed stone instead of porous concrete or asphalt as the new surface for a pathway through the park.
But several aldermen resisted the crushed stone plan after city staff said it would be just as expensive as porous concrete and wouldn’t meet the city’s accessibility goals.
With some aldermen also expressing aesthetic objections to asphalt — the least costly alternative — the City Council voted to instruct staff to come up with more detailed information about alternative costs and to hold a public meeting on the issue before a rescheduled vote on the plan at the next council meeting Feb. 23.
During public comment arboretum committee member Virginia Beatty said she was concerned about the impact of the new path on trees. But city officials said only three trees would need to be removed.
Wendy Pollock, of 1410 Oak Ave., another committee member, said the scale of the planned project is out of proportion to what’s needed for the paths.
And former committee member Jim Larochelle, of 2104 Grant St., said a concrete path would lead to faster bike speeds that would endanger bird watchers and other arboretum users.
Noreen Edwards, of 2125 Sherman Ave., said the paths would create over an acre of paved surface in the 17.3 acre arboretum, although most of that surface is now covered by the existing path system.
Some speakers cited the 2007 arboretum master plan, which recommends crushed granite as the surface for the path. But those who complained that the new path would be too wide didn’t mention that the master plan calls for a path eight feet wide with two-foot wide grassy buffers on either side — exactly what the staff proposal called for.
The city has received a federal grant that could cover up to $520,000 of the project cost. But while the cost to local taxpayers would be only $116,569 for an asphalt path, the porous concrete option is expected to cost local taxpayers four times as much.
Public Works Director Suzette Robinson said the crushed stone path can’t be plowed during the winter — leaving it inaccessible for several months each year — and it also, like the current path, is likely to flood in the summer, making it difficult to use then as well. Unlike the other alternatives, Robinson said, the crushed granite would also require annual maintenance work to maintain.
City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said that while the porous concrete would be easier for cyclists and wheelchair users than the crushed granite, it would not provide as smooth a surface as asphalt.
Some advocates for the granite path dismissed the need for students walking to school or wheelchair users to use the path through the arboretum, suggesting they should use the asphalt path through Twiggs and Butler parks on the opposite side of the canal instead.
But Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, noted that students “are always looking to take the shortest, most direct route.”
And Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said wheelchair users who live at the Over the Rainbow development for adults with disabilities on Bridge Street just east of the arboretum should be free to use the arboretum path all year as well.
Grover said that with increased emphasis on bike riding — for recreation and work and school commuting — it’s important to have a path that’s useful year round.
Update 7 a.m. 2/11/15: The city now has scheduled a community workshop on the Ladd Arboretum path project for Tuesday, Feb. 17, in the Parasol Room at the Civic Center. The workshop will start at 6 p.m. followed by a question-and-answer session at 7:30 p.m.