About three dozen Evanston residents and a third as many city staff and aldermen turned out Tuesday night for a workshop to review construction material alternatives for renovating the path through the Ladd Arboretum.

The session was called after about a dozen speakers objected at a City Council meeting last week to plans to replace the half-century old crushed stone path there with permeable concrete — which staff recommended as an alternative to the asphalt material approved for the project by aldermen last year.

An image, from a staff presentation, of a wheelchair user trying to navigate the existing path this winter.

City staff has argued that the crushed stone path can’t be plowed in winter and is prone to flooding in warmer months — making it unsuitable for users ranging from handicapped persons in wheelchairs and bicyclists to students walking to two nearby schools. Both asphalt and permeable concrete, the staff says, would meet those accessibility goals.

But neither students nor wheelchair users were present at the workshop — while a large contingent of arboretum activists who like the traditional look of crushed stone were there.

Images, from a staff presentation, of a crushed granite path through a wooded area …

Public Works Director Suzette Robinson said results of the voting at the workshop would be included in the packet for next Monday’s City Council meeting, which she said would be released on Thursday.

One alderman at the meeting suggested the “do nothing” option — just leave the path the way it is.

… of an asphalt path through a wooded area …

But that would require forgoing a grant of up to $580,000 of federal funds awarded through the state — which could cover 80 percent of the cost of an asphalt path, or as much as 55 percent of the more expensive permeable concrete or crushed granite options.

… and of a permeable concrete path through a grassy area bordering a woodland.

An extensive list of potential environmental impacts of the different pavement types included in a staff presentation suggested that on balance the different materials have relatively similar impacts.

Related stories

Viewpoint: Opt for asphalt for arboretum path (2/16/15)

Aldermen delay vote on rebuilding arboretum path (2/10/15)

Fancy path choice to quadruple local taxpayer cost (2/8/15)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. How did people get to the meeting?

    Did they drive in cars that burned nonrenewable fossil fuels that emitted CO2?

    Or, did they walk?

  2. Arboretum Path
    I’m going to agree with the alderperson who said “do nothing.” This is a grant that funds either 80% or 55% of the cost dependent on materials used. Evanston needs to come up with that difference. Since there is an obvious difference of opinion in what materials should be used, we should forget doing it at all and use the difference in cost on something that is a must instead of an “it would be nice to have”…. maybe put it toward paying down our pensions. Every little bit should help there. As for this safety argument, the conditions of that path exist all over Evanston after every snowfall or deep freeze. I, and numerous other people, walk in the street when sidewalks are available because sidewalks aren’t always cleared. As for that path, just look to Evanstonnow to see the numerous complaints of sidewalks bordering parks that were left uncleared during our most recent storm. Having a path doesn’t mean it will be clear sailing.

  3. Better start pinching pennies while increasing fairness

    It is virtually certain that state funds to the City of Evanston will be dropping. The City Council needs to start making prudent frugal decisions with the City's money.

    In this situation, asphalt it is.  Let's move on to the next issue and save some money there, too.  Unless those advocating for crushed stone have another way to pay the higher installation costs and the higher maintenance costs every year that does not include any taxpayer (city, state or federal) funds.

    And how much does it cost to hold these "workshops" to try to appease a few dozen people?  Staff costs to prepare materials, set up and attend, photocopying costs, flip charts, refreshments, table decorations with balloons (in the photo), extra heating and electricity costs, etc.  None of these extra efforts at hand wringing are free.

    My neighborhood (that includes a public school) has one public garbage can for many, many blocks.  And that one can is an old, dented, painted oil can.  And 5 days out of 7, it is overflowing. We tolerate it.  But it is an example of how some neighborhoods are more equal than others.  That needs to end so that we can save money while increasing fairness in the distribution of city resources.

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