Bushnell Park’s Relationship to the City
A question that I am always asking about any development is who will be benefiting. It’s fine to want to draw wealthy professionals into the city, but not if it means ignoring the needs of current residents. Something heartening about these discussions was that nobody was proposing anything that sounded like an attempt to change an historical park Downtown into a Disneyland. There was a balance between providing for existing park users and potential park users. Even in the discussion about raising up Gully Brook, nobody asked for anything (like duck boats) that would not fit in a small city.
This last session dealt with not so much what happens within the park, but how the park happens in the city. There was discussion about its entryways and boundaries. One idea was to extend the park to Tower Square, which is that foreboding slab of concrete you see when walking out of the park and up Gold Street. It’s always cordoned off now and functions as a dead space. The concept of extending the park space in this way is one that was mentioned in the very early stages of the iQuilt project.
There was discussion of creating a “better city edge” that would support the park. Basically, this entails, as Suisman put it, “putting streets on a road diet” by paring some down. When streets are wide, motorists drive faster. This means that they are not slowing down to look at their environment, and they certainly are not slowing down for pedestrians. Anyone who has ever tried to bike down Capitol Avenue near the I-84 on/off ramp can attest to this. Basically, the infrastructure sends the message that we want people to move through as quickly as possible.
When narrowing travel lanes, there would be potential to add bike lanes or make other use of the space.
The need to make the area along Elm Street more walkable was discussed. In all of this, one hopes that there is attention given to the need for these areas to all be walkable during the winter months as well. Having a nice view is a plus, but if people can not go from point A to point B because some clown left a snowbank in the middle of the sidewalk, that view does not really matter. This past winter demonstrated this issue all too well, as there were no thru-paths in the entire park for several weeks. Just as the city does not shut down at 5pm, it should not be expected to shut down during January. (more…)