Thursday, January 23, 2014

NedPeds Project Moves Forward with Final Approval

Location: Nederland, CO 80466, USA
Nederland DDA, Board of Trustees,
Conor Merrigan from C2 Sustainability,
and Brian McLaren from Huitt-Zollars
review the NedPeds project at 30%.
On January 21, 2014, the Nederland Board of Trustees (BOT) approved the final plan for NedPeds. Here is how Daily Camera reporter, Sarah Kuta, described the story: Nederland Approves NedPeds, Moves to Save Trees in Path.

For all the work and analysis that went into the project – challenging the design team to balance a host of sometimes conflicting criteria to produce all the unique design features – it seems a bit disappointing that it appears to be boiled down to saving two trees, but perhaps that is precisely what characterizes NedPeds. It is a very distinctively Nederland project designed closely with resident input, and a town with an unwavering commitment to the environment.

There were many opportunities to examine the 90% plans, and how the NedPeds project had been developing. On November 20, there was an in-depth walk-through to see exactly how the project laid out, first hand. Our Sustainability Project Managers met folks at Salto Coffee Works and they took comments, answered questions, as they walked the entire route. The Nederland DDA worked with the residents of Second Street throughout the process. Most of the BOT and the Planning Commission were also there discussing different aspects of the plan.

Below I've included a brief history on how the project had evolved.

Planning the NedPeds Project for Over Three Years:

Two years ago, the Nederland Board of Trustees (BOT) rejected the "Sidewalks Phase II" project, for several reasons, and turned away nearly a half-million dollars, which was gladly used by a 'flatlander' community down below to print flyers, in order to encourage their citizens to use public transportation.  Here is a link to an article by Mitchell Byars from the Daily Camera explaining the story: Nederland Rejects Sidewalk Project, Plus $486,000 Grant.

As we can see from the article back then, I defended the Board of Trustees' decision. The BOT knew that future funding would not become available until 2017, and the BOT rejection sent a year's worth of planning back to the drawing board, but we also knew that when we think things through as a community, we usually get a better outcome.

A Lesson in Sustainability Planning:

On March 20, 2012, the BOT passed Resolution 2012-12, and institutionalized the Nederland Planning Process (NPP), in part because of the "Boating on Barker" issue, partly because of the "Sidewalks Phase II" decision. We decided that town projects would go through much more public input. I described our thought process in this Mountain Ear article: Humans and Nature.

A half year later, through a "once in a great recession" opportunity, we were able to secure funding again. This time, we followed recommendations from all the public comments, changed the route to address the storm water drainage issues on Second Street, and developed a Design Advisory Team (DAT) of about 20 people comprised mostly of people on Second Street. One thing is for sure, the BOT wanted it to be designed by Second Street residents, because after all, they would have to live with it in their front yard, however it turned out.

This time, we hired additional sustainability consultants, brought-in experts from the EPA to employ bio-mimicry techniques, and explored the use of bio-swales and permeable surfaces. The Nederland DDA held several educational sessions so that the residents of Second Street could better understand the hydrology and riparian zones surrounding their homes.

During the past two years of design, Second Street has flooded a couple of times, engineers have documented the flooding, and Second Street residents have been able to see the impact on their homes. Fortunately, this last flood which devastated areas of Jamestown, Lyons, and Longmont did not effect Nederland as much, but we did experience damage which can be seen today. Nobody could have predicted that storm water could cause so much damage, evacuate entire towns, cripple transportation systems, and destroy local economies. The event highlights the importance of addressing decades of neglect to Nederland's storm water management system.

Our consultants helped the Design Advisory Team (DAT) develop a matrix of needs, such as drainage, riparian zones, animal habitat, parking, congestion, crosswalks, town maintenance procedures, life cycle costs, building materials, and public safety – but mostly storm water drainage. In hindsight, an extremely wise choice.

Perhaps the Most Scrutinized Pathway on the Front Range:

In March 2013, the DDA and BOT decided to extend the project for yet another year in order to thoroughly put the project through the Nederland Planning Process (NPP), hold numerous public meetings, and get feedback from all our town's advisory boards. I mentioned this delay in this article: NedPeds Scheduled to Begin Construction: Summer 2014. Every aspect of the design process has been scrutinized. Periodically, the Design Team would check-in with the BOT, and in each case, the BOT agreed with the Second Street residents' recommendations. 

The Design Advisory Team, including many Second Street residents, have really pushed our design consultants to come up with a plan that addresses the flooding issues and includes design features that have a distinctively Nederland feel. Their thought process is reflected in this article: Rules for Local Distinctiveness. In this article we can see how the character of Nederland (especially the creek) is celebrated when we avoid using culverts and drainage pipes to solve storm water flooding problems.

The plan addresses property line conflicts that have existed for almost a century. It required a great deal of compromise within a matrix of conflicting goals. The planning process heightened the awareness of Second Street homeowners' relationship with nature, North Beaver Creek, and the riparian habitat. Ultimately, NedPeds is distinctive to Nederland. – It evolved as a collective manifestation from the community on Second Street.

[Here is a Video Valediction] This is North-Eastern US band, Crooked Still, covering the Beatles, We Can Work It Out, at the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival (2011). [What is a Video Valediction?]
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