Sunday, December 27, 2009

Twitter

I've started using Twitter! I'll post updates and quick thoughts to it as I get around to it.

Check it out- http://www.twitter.com/bendeclue
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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Truman Boulevard- Jefferson County's first Great Streets project?

For many years Truman Boulevard (61/67) served as the main North-South connector to and from St. Louis for the eastern side of Jefferson County. Before I-55 this road, running through Crystal City, Festus, Herculaneum and Pevely, was THE freight and passenger route for residents to get to work up north. As you might expect from a road of that importance in the 1960's-70's, it was built to almost exclusively accommodate motorized traffic. Additionally, the development that sprang up along Truman was not part of any unified plan, leading to too many entrances and exits (causing safety issues), very few greenspaces in developed areas (causing stormwater runoff issues), and many of the buildings were of poor quality that only today are beginning to be razed and redeveloped. Essentially today's Truman Boulevard does meets few, if any, of the standards that would be required in a modern roadway.

However, the quad-city area is not alone in dealing with an out-of-date commercial corridor of this nature. Many commercial corridor roads in St. Louis County and streets in St. Louis City suffer from the same design flaws as Truman Boulevard. To help begin to correct these flaws, the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, which controls all federal funding (ie our tax dollars) for highway and roads projects in the St. Louis area (including Jefferson County) set up a program called "The Great Streets Initiative" and began funding planning and construction efforts for a few model projects. Additionally, they have set up a general resource site for other communities to take advantage of, although without the assistance of any funding.

The purpose of the Great Streets Initiative is to redesign major commercial thoroughfares, particularly ones that connect multiple communities or serve as major neighborhood hubs, that have begun unraveling or falling into disuse commercially, by providing the communities involved with the funding and technical resources required to completely re-imagine these areas for future use. This process relies heavily on community visioning, involvement, and feedback, creating an area for all users that will serve as an attractive area for residents. E-W Gateway selected four projects/areas for funding and by all accounts the results have been tremendously successful.

Since these projects are taxpayer funded and the initial round of projects went to area in St. Louis City and County, its time for Jefferson County to step up to the plate and ask for a project of our own- a complete redesign and construction of Truman Boulevard (61/67) from the southern point in Crystal City/Festus up through Pevely. The redesign should be focused on creating safer traffic intersections, a more logical system of accessing businesses lining the highway, pedestrian crosswalks at intersections, and especially a focus on providing access for all users, transforming the highway from a 4 lane river of pavement for automobiles to a boulevard with trees and greenspace, sidewalks, bike accommodations, and a better coordination of commercial buildings to provide an inviting, safe, and pleasant shopping, driving, and walking experience along the way.

A major project like this will take years to do, but the benefits to the fabric of our community, interconnectedness of the quad-city area, and everyday experience along this route will be immeasurable. Its time to transform Truman Boulevard from a basic 4 lane road for cars into a true boulevard supporting multiple uses for all people!

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Updates!

Sorry for the lack of new posts lately! I wanted to give a quick update on two big projects that we've been talking about since Day 1 of this blog- Complete Streets and Tree City USA status.

First, I'm pleased to report that the Tree Care/Board ordinance required for Tree City USA status has been introduced to the City Council and will be refined at the worksession on January 18th. The plan is to have this wrapped up fairly quickly so Crystal City will be able to adopt an Arbor Day proclamation and provide for a community forest program in the next budget. That will complete the Tree City USA requirements and allow for Crystal City to apply for Tree City status after the start of the next budget year in April.

Second, a few months ago after a presentation from our friends at Trailnet, the City Council decided that a Complete Streets policy is worth pursuing and accepted our offer of assistance toward that goal. Having assembled a great working group and collaborating with them, we have nearly completed the final draft of a Complete Streets policy to be presented to the council. We hope to be able to present the Complete Streets policy at the same worksession as the Tree Care/Board ordinance. Again we hope for an aggressive, but workable timetable and hope to have work on this project completed by March/April along with the Tree City program.

Positive things are on the horizon for Crystal City!

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Coming This Week

This week will feature posts about improving Truman Boulevard and more ideas for Crystal City's parks.
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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Crystal City Parks: A Place Is Needed

One of the features of almost every truly great park is the presences of "places" to be- somewhere more than just a pavilion or a random bench along a path.  Places are human scale and somewhat intimate- a place to linger and enjoy just being there.  Maybe its a grotto, maybe a boathouse, maybe a quiet place off of a path where one can sit and enjoy the scenery without people running by through the view.  Places can be many things to many different people.  We've talked before about the need for a long term Park Master Plan for Crystal City's parks- the development of "places" would and should be a part of that process.  Specifically, we believe that Crystal City's Municipal Park has an ideal location for the development of a "place" within the next few years!

Our proposal:  We believe that the Crystal City Parks Department should renovate, restore, and upgrade the waterfall pond in the North section of the Municipal Park and establish it as a "place" for the enjoyment of all of Crystal City.

(For an excellent example of creating a "place" check out this post from the St. Louis Urban Workshop about ongoing projects in Forest Park.)

The waterfall has, sadly,  not operated since Bill Bradley announced his run for President in 1999.  We believe that the City has, either on staff or volunteering, the ability to determine what work needs to be done to fix the pond and to restore its function.  If needed the pumping mechanism should be removed from the pond and placed into a pumphouse.  The pond should also be completely cleared out of all debris and restored to excellent condition.  Restoration of the waterfall is key to establishing an attractive place for people to come enjoy.



 

Next, the area around the pond should be landscaped to provide seating and small gathering places for picnics, small meetings, and more.  Not pavilions or tables per se, but something smaller and more intimate.  This could be accomplished with stone, wood, earth, or any combination of the three so long as the improvements are permanent, safe, and aesthetically pleasing.



 


 

Finally, with the waterfall restored and the area around it modified for regular use, a way should be prepared for people to access the new place.  Ideally this would be in the form of new sidewalks along Parkview Drive with a paved or stone trail leading from them to the waterfall.  The existing blacktop "path" is completely substandard and perhaps even dangerous to use as it currently exists:



 

This area of the Municipal Park is a small yet nice piece of nature in an otherwise suburban environment.  With some planning and dedication, a truly beautiful "place" can be made that everyone can enjoy.  We hope that Park officials consider something like this in their long-range plans.

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Crystal City Dog Park

This weekend we visited the City of Arnold's "Paw Park".  Surprisingly, we had almost as much fun as our dogs!  It didn't take long at all to conclude that Crystal City should seriously consider a dog park of its own.

Our proposal:  The City of Crystal City and its Parks Department should consider the creation of a dog park at the Crystal City Municipal Park.

Why should Crystal City consider a dog park?  As our friends at DogPark.com put it:

A dog park is a place where people and their dogs can play together. These facilities offer dogs off-leash play areas while their people enjoy the park-like setting. Amenities, such as fencing, water, parking, and even grass, vary greatly among these places, but ‘off-leash’ and ‘park’ are the key elements that dog owners (who are also taxpayers and voters) desire.
For some dog owners, a dog park may provide the main opportunity for dog guardians to socialize with other people and their dogs, and is a primary source of recreation. We believe that they deserve to have their taxpayer dollars used towards a safe, accessible place where they can meet other people and exercise themselves and their dogs.
In short- its a great place for people to take their dogs, let them run around with no leashes, and generally have fun!

Here are some pictures from the Arnold Paw Park this weekend:






 


 


 


 


The Arnold Paw Park is separated into two areas- one for dogs under 25 lbs and one for dogs over 25 lbs.  While it seems the small dogs may cross into the bigger pen, the larger dogs are kept out of the smaller dog area.


One aspect quickly noticed was the number of "regular" attendees and the fun, welcoming community they formed.  Everyone welcomed us and our dogs in a very genuine way.


Having seen pictures from Arnold, where could Crystal City put a dog park of its own?  We spent part of our late morning exploring the Crystal City Municipal Park and concluded that an excellent spot would be the large field next to the old handball courts in the North section of the park:





 


 


The field is large, flat, and very visible to passing motorists and pedestrians.  Adequate parking is available along the roadside near the ball-fields and plumbing exists in the area for a water station.  On its face, it appears ideal, especially given that the field has no current purpose.  If needed, the old handball courts, generally little used, could be razed for a larger area.


With some planning, a little extra money, and the willpower, Crystal City could have an excellent dog park enjoyed by human and canine alike.  The materials required for a park are fairly simple- some powder-coated fencing, a couple of benches, a water station, and rules clearly posted at the gate.


Lets hope that in 2010 Crystal City's pooches will have a place to run free at last!

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Train Trestle Over Truman: Time for an Upgrade

As every resident of Crystal City has seen countless times, the raised railroad crossing over Truman Blvd is a true eyesore.  From the dirty concrete pillars supporting it to the rusted steel encasing it, this trestle is a true problem for Crystal City's image.

Here is the trestle today:





I think we can all agree- an upgrade is desperately needed.


A perfect example of what could be done comes from our neighbors to the North, Maplewood!  This image is of the Metro line as it crosses Manchester Ave:
























The bridge retains its function while being visually pleasing and letting motorists know that they are in Maplewood.  The "Maplewood" sign itself is crafted with a fun design and is backward on the other side so as to be read in your rear-view mirror.

Even if money for a more decorative sign like Maplewood's couldn't be found, surely Crystal City could partner with the railroad to clean up the overpass, put on new coat of paint (not necessarily silver) and also paint "Crystal City" on each side?  Even a basic cleanup would be an excellent beginning to a larger effort to bring Truman Blvd up to modern standards!  Maybe next we could see some sidewalks and trees?

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