Accessible PARC

While in New York City this summer, I enjoyed visiting the innovative High Line Park. It repurposes an old freight rail line elevated about eight metres above ground level. It is a kind of botanical park, 1.6 kilometres long, including natural vegetation that gets little other chance to grow on Manhattan’s Lower West Side.

One aspect that the High Line Park happens to not have is also not specifically mentioned in the PARC concept, which is discussed and illustrated on this blog in “Listening to the  Lands = PARC.” The omission is because the value is so ingrained in our thinking that we didn’t notice the need to be explicit. That aspect is accessibility, not just in the broad sense but in a particular one: a network of trails and gathering spaces that people with mobility challenges can use without obstacles.

It happens that the Lands have existing haphazard dyking with clay fill, and we know that more dyking will be needed for water management (hydrology purposes). It is self-evident that the dykes would serve also as arterial trail routes. We envision wide trails—wide enough for a range of trail uses, consistent in surface elevation, and designed from the beginning to be friendly to all the uses, individually and together.

The uses include walking and running, perhaps with a stroller, pram, etc. They also include wheelchairs and mobility scooters, bicycles and tricycles, and service vehicles.

This is a simple way of expressing what the culture of Richmond calls for. There’s a lot more to putting it into practice. But it is something that Richmond can and will do well.

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As a postscript, I should point out that the High Line Park provides maximum access for Manhattan’s Lower West Side residents and visitors in the ways that are practicable in the  particular situation. Much as we listen to the Garden City Lands, the conservationists who preserved and restored the High Line were highly sensitive to the range of unique strengths of the old railway  structure and the vegetation that thrived there. They have done extensive work on the structure and ecosystem regeneration, and my sense is that they avoided any accidental damage by thinking well ahead before removing anything.

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