Anyone who’s used the trails along West River Parkway in Minneapolis over the past few years would probably agree that they’re overdue for an overhaul. Good news: It’s happening. The plan is to rebuild them starting in June 2009. Design plans are coming together right now.
(Pink marks the proposed bituminous path. Blue marks the proposed concrete path.)
Carly and I had a chance to attend a meeting about the design plans for the reconstruction at Brackett Park tonight. The turn-out was impressive. We clearly live in a very active community that takes its trails seriously. They played a very significant role in choosing a Minneapolis neighborhood to move to back in 2004 for us and they play a daily role in our lives today.
The section of trail getting attention runs from Franklin Ave on the North to Minnehaha Falls.
Here’s what we learned tonight:
1. Bike Trails will be widened from 8 to 10 feet.
2. Run/Walk trails will be 8′ with a concrete surface (more on this below)
3. When combined due to available bluff space, they’ll try to maintain a 12′ wide surface
4. Lighting will be improved. This is part of a city-wide plan to upgrade lighting. You can see examples of this on East River Parkway to the South of Franklin.
5. The amount of impervious area will increase due to path widening. However, they plan to grade as much of the path to drain toward the street rather than river which is supposed to help improve water quality from run-off. There will also be a few drainage designed green spaces.
6. The path should be more durable than the current version. As I understand it, this is because they know more about building long-lasting trails than they used to.
7. They plan to separate the trails further apart than they are today when possible. However, room is tight between the road and the drop into the gorge.
8. Around 6 trees will be removed. However, additional green spaces will be created in other areas.
9. There are design proposals to close one of the two entryways to parking lots along the parkway, such as at 36th Street & Becketwood. This should allow for increased green space and a smoother surface with less congestion for trail users. The explanation of the changes across from Becketwood received applause:
That design shows a closing of the South driveway, adding a trail to the road, and moving the crosswalk further North to the straightway. Right now, the crosswalk is on the curve, which is a very dangerous spot for the slow moving pedestrians from the senior home who are trying to safely access the parkway across the street.
10. They estimate it will take 3-4 months to rebuild the trail. It will be disruptive. They hope to keep some areas open during construction but don’t have a plan in place on how to reroute trail traffic during reconstruction.
The biggest noticeable change for most people would be the parking lot redesigns, such as this proposal to remove a few spots down near Lock & Dam #1:
Concerns about running on concrete, which leads to combined path issues. Park Board’s standard is concrete for pedestrian path.
Concrete Running Path?
UPDATE: The plan has been modified based on feedback. Both paths will be asphalt.
Running in attendance were more than a little surprised to hear that the proposed surface for the running/walking trail is concrete. Runners commonly avoid running on hard surfaces as a way to protect their bodies from injuries, and concrete is the hardest surface they’ll encounter.
Using concrete for the running path sounds like a disaster waiting to happen since many runners will avoid running on that path in favor of the softer, asphalt, bike path. This will lead to congestion, accidents, unhappy bikers & runners.
The question of safety of concrete as a running surface was raised at the meeting. The presenter (John Deitrich?) said that they looked into this and they didn’t find a difference in surfaces. Regardless of the science, if runners won’t run on it, there will be trail use issues caused by the surface differences.
However, it looks like there really are physical health issues caused by running on concrete. A nice round-up of studies can be found on Google Answers that includes this breakdown of running surfaces by a podiatrist:
Google Answers: RUNNING AND JOINT HEALTH — ASPHALT vs. CONCRETE?
Dr. John Pagliano (the podiatrist quoted in the Men’s Fitness article above), who also coauthored a scholarly article on Illiotibial Band Syndrome) comes down against concrete, saying that “if you switch to softer surfaces, you can cut your injury risk by 50%.” In this particular article, the magazine rates ten running surfaces (1 being worst/10 being best)–I realize your question is specific to street running, but I’m including all of the surfaces here in case it’s of interest:
Track (referring to synthetically made tracks): 7
Wood Chips: 9
If you’re passionate about running, your fellow runners, or bikers who compete for trail space with runners, please take action to get this issue straightened out. This decision will be with us for the next couple decades so the time to act is now. Here’s who to talk to:
Sandy Colvin-Roy – City Council Member Representing the Area
Phone (612) 673-2212
Fax (612) 673-3940
Email form on website.
Scott Vreeland – Park Board Member Representing the Area