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.

Wendy Pollock.

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.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Whats there to talk about?

    What's there to talk about? The Arboretum master plan simply recommends crushed gravel, that's not a mandate, that's just wishful desire.

    Asphalt will save several hundred thousand taxpayer dollars in construction, and unknown additional dollars in continual annual maintenance.

    Crushed gravel is hostile to the handicapped, hostile to the reality of how school children use the path, floods in the spring and can't be cleared in the winter.

    If asphalt works aesthetically for the beautiful Botanic Gardens and the Morton Arboretum, then it's certainly good enough for a path in Evanston.

    Choosing a plan that's financially responsible, requires less costly maintenance and works for more people over a longer period of time.

    1. annual maintenance?
      “…unknown additional dollars in continual annual maintenance.”

      I’ve been walking my dog(s) in the Arboretum for 3 decades. I don’t remember any maintenance of the paths any year. Perhaps that’s why they are in such lousy shape now.

      BTW, the existing gravel pathway is plowed after deep snowfalls.

      May I suggest a compromise? In many stretches along the Arboretum, there is a main path and a secondary path, e.g. from the Ecology Center to the fountain past the windmill. Perhaps a main paved path could be established that would track along McCormick Blvd (as it mostly does now) and a gravel path renovated/established that would track along the edge of the canal “valley”?

      1. yes, annual maintenance

        Simply based on comments from our Director of Public Works. Crushed gravel cannot be well plowed during winter & will flood during heavy rain. She also stated crushed gravel would need annual maintenance, which I think is a reasonable expectation and will obviously demand an unnecessary & continuous flow of extra taxpayer dollars. And extra funding to build an expanded secondary path when one asphalt path will suffice? I understand the desire for crushed gravel like I understand my desire for an Aston Martin, unfortunately my Hyundai must suffice. Fiscal reality/responsibility is something this community needs to face up to. The Botanic Gardens work really well for virtually everyone, and the asphalt seems to work really well for the Botanic Gardens. So there's no real justification for the Aston Martin at multiple times initial cost and maintenance, it's simply not necessary. Now, if the crushed gravel advocates want to raise a couple hundred thousand dollars on their own…..

        1. Blowin’ smoke

          The Director of Public Works is blowing smoke, offering excuses for why spending quadruple the cost is a reasonable course of action. "Require annual maintenance"- yeah, right, like the City has been putting in so much annual maintenance for  the last 30 years. And besides, how much maintenance cost has to be saved to justify an initial outlay 4 times the cost of gravel replacement?

          I asked my brother, who is a municipal worker for my home town in NJ, what's involved in plowing a gravel pathway. One does have to be more careful, but to say it can't be done sounds like someone being lazy.

          As for the primary/secondary paths, I admit I don't know if the proposed plan includes all paths in the Arboretum or just the primary one and ignoring the secondary paths. If all paths are included, then the money saved by not paving the secondary paths could be used the straighten the primary (reducing its overall length and cost) and enhancing the secondary paths with cheap gravel.

          I do hope the aldermen get a chance to actually walk around the Arboretum before casting any votes. I also hope they walk to the other side of the canal, to Twiggs Park, where the path is asphalt-paved and receives much more maintenance than the Arboretum. Maybe they will notice the dilapidated windmill and the empty beer cans from the underage drinkers. Of course, the snow is covering up the plastic grocery bags and fast-food trash (and the occasional used condom.)

          1. blowin smoke?

            Maybe I'm mistaken, and yes, I'm assuming Public Works can justify their statement that crushed stone is comprable in cost to pouring permeable concrete. Which makes asphalt the least costly option according to Public Works.

            Yet you state Public Works is offering excuses for spending quadruple the needed cost.  If the final use is asphalt, how is that?  

            I stand by my statements. Asphalt is less costly to install, less costly to maintain, isn't hostile to school children or the handicapped, is less prone to flooding and easier to snow plow, and is not four times the cost of anything.

            Again, if it works perfectly fine for the Botanic Gardens & Morton Arb., then it will work perfectly fine in Evanston.  I expect alderman to use fiscal responsibility with my money.  If crushed gravel advocates want to spend extra money for an unnecessary upgrade, then by all means, go ahead and raise the difference. 

        2. “Fiscal reality/responsibility – what’s that?
          Anonymouss, you raise a great point – Elected officials at the City of Evanston, D65 & D202, and the State of Illinois, need to realize the financial challenges and issues confronting its citizens and act responsibly. The last time i checked my bank account, i realized i don’t have unlimited funds, and my paycheck hasn’t increased much in the last 5+ years. Very few people have unlimited money, but at least i have a bank account for which i am thankful.

          In Evanston, recent issues surrounding the continued subsidization of for profit businesses and city expenditures are very troubling.

          Patiogate at Peckish Pig and the loan to Chicago Chicken and Waffle House are 2 examples of poor decisions.

          More recently, the proposal to spend $500,000 to completely tear down and rebuild Penny Park is wasteful.

          Where is this money coming from ? It’s you and me and all other taxpayers in Evanston.
          And people wonder why taxes are so high?

          Citizens should demand that any and every elected official take a basic economics class and understand how a budget works before
          they assume office and start making decisions about how our taxpayer money is spent.

          My Hyundai gets me to the grocery store and work just fine.

          A “fiscal reality/responsibility check-up” is long overdue.


          1. Require aldermatic candidates to release their tax returns

            How rich are are alderpersons and the mayor?  We don't know.  But based on the way they spend our money, I suspect they are better off than the average Evanston taxpayer.   Because they may have more disposable income than the average citizen, they don't understand the value we place on each of our dollars.  For all future elections to city offices let us require full financial disclosure of each candidate so we know where they are comming from financialy 

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