This weekend they'll probably be opening, and in the gaps between any rains, be sure to enjoy them!
Incidental to the interpretive panel on the Winter Street Bridge was a reminder of the plaque for the Shelton Creek Bridge of more than a generation ago.
|Shelton Creek Bridge and Dedication Plaque, 1984|
|Minto Bridge and Dedication Plaque, 2017 - City of Salem|
There's no sustained comparison here at the moment, but it's interesting to remember and consider how shiny, new, exciting things fade into the background to become mere furniture we take for granted.
The walk was also a chance to consider in more detail some of the locations and concepts for the "Arts and Parks Corridor" some have discussed.
A Stream of Mystery
|Footbridge closed (back in February)!|
The bridge crosses what looks to be the vestige of an old creek we have mostly lost track of.
|1878 Atlas shows from south to north:|
Pringle, Shelton, "Mystery," Millrace
But the chapter on "Historical Conditions" of the 2002 Pringle, Glenn-Gibson, Claggett and Mill Creeks Watershed Assessment has more:
On the 1878 Illustrated Atlas Map, Pringle Creek is joined at Church Street by Shelton Ditch and a stream of mystery which split south from the Mill Race, beginning between 12th and 13th, Mill and Trade Streets, flowing north of and roughly parallel to Mill Street until it turned almost 90 degrees south along Church Street, crossing Bellevue. Two earlier writers note this stream. According to landscape architect Elizabeth Lord writing a description of Pringle Park, “...There was Pringle Creek meandering through Bush Pasture, the Shelton Ditch in natural state, very attractive trees on the bank and the third, Mill Creek, all three joining hands under the Church Street bridge...” Dan J. Fry, an early settler who grew up in Salem, notes in his story that “...a small stream ran along Church Street into Mill Creek (now called Pringle Creek) which was very clear and a good fishing stream...” [internal references omitted]It also is interesting, but not surprising, that the confluence of Pringle Creek and Shelton Ditch now seems to have moved a little west and north, not mostly on the west side of Church Street, perhaps partially channelized by the Shelton Ditch work but also influenced by erosion and gravel action.
This stream of mystery is probably not terribly important in the hydraulic history of Salem, and if it had been totally filled in or culverted, it might be worth even less mention. But because it has a bridge over that vestigial gully, and now we've mostly paved over the stream's course for parking and some roadway, it's worth considering a little. It might not be important, but it's interesting trivia!
Bicycling on the Path
Some have argued that this path system could be a primary corridor for walking and biking. But here is another section of the path system that is fundamentally unsuited for bicycling. The path is narrow, blind stair landings connect with it, and whether because of topography or aesthetics the path has these zig-zags. (It's not very wide, either. It probably doesn't meet current standards for a multiple-use path.)
|The path links to stair landings and it zig-zags|
|At the bridge landing, at least five different ways radiate from it|
|A total blind corner at Winter Street|
|The dedication is silent on bicycles - it's clearly a "walk"|
These photos were also taken on a beautiful winter day, and there was only one other person on the path system. He can be seen in the photo of the "closed" footbridge. He was sitting on a bench and smoking.
|Smoking Man (detail at bridge over stream of mystery)|
Frequently enough, the solution for this is said to be better advertising, better wayfinding and signage. But this accepts the paths as mainly a destination, as the result of a special trip. What these spaces really need - what all of our public spaces need - are other things nearby that are the primary destination and which induce incidental trips through the public space.
|One person only on a beautiful winter day at Mirror Pond!|
The elevation gap between sidewalk and sunken park is a barrier
|Good public space has lively edges from adjacent land use|
Even though Mirror Pond looks like it is for walking, it is partially structured as a drive-to destination. It is conceived with autoist logic.
|Looking east from Mirror Pond to Parkade, SAIF,|
Robert Lindsey Tower, 1975
Salem Library Historic Photos
Additionally, it is structured as a pedestrian displacement system, a meandering way to get non-autos off of the side for the Parkway/OR-22 couplet. It was designed and built as a substitute for sidewalks, pushing buildings even farther away from the street. It is a quasi-suburban intrusion into what should be a fully urban space.
Some have argued that we should understand the spaces as a Japanese Stroll Garden, but even if that was part of the original intent, there are reasons now to critique it:
- Let's agree a Stroll Garden might be interesting somewhere, but is this the right place? Should we devote so much prime downtown space to a "stroll garden"? We already have the Capitol Mall and WU campus. Not to mention all the parking lots. There's lots of open space downtown, actually. A central argument here is that there is too much downtown open space, and we should want more of it developed, and more intensely developed.
- A Stroll Garden is structured as a destination, a drive-to destination, and we should instead want "walk-through" connections with rich edges rather than trip end points, a kind of glorified cul-de-sac. Minto Park is our Stroll Garden, really.