It’s rare that I create a follow-up post so quickly on the heels of the original, since both articles deal with more or less the same topic. But my post at Pickwick Commons back in late May investigated the possibility of taking an existing utility easement and doubling it with a pedestrian easement. That is, I proposed using the huge linear swathe dedicated to the conveyance of high-tension electric wires as a mixed-use bike/pedestrian path, thereby linking two southern Indiana municipalities: New Albany and Clarksville, while including a bridge across the Silver Creek. It’s nothing more than a SimCity fantasy, but so are at least half of my ponderings on this blog. But it’s at least a credible SimCity fantasy, because evidence of mixed-use paths underneath high-tension electric cables abounds; they’re scattered all over the country. Why not in New Albany, starting at the modest townhome subdivision of Pickwick Commons?
Well, I stumbled upon an answer my question during a recent unexpected visit to this suburb of Louisville. I unintentionally drove past this respectably sized park just a half mile away, and lo and behold:
New Albany does in fact offer an example of a pedestrian trail using the utility easement path generated through overhead, high-tension electric cables and the massive towers that keep them out of harm’s way. In fact, the utility easement articulates an enormous swathe of green space, much of it used for recreational purposes.
It’s Sam Peden Community Park, the largest park in Floyd County: 104.5 acres fronting Grant Line Road, a major arterial in the city. Here’s the entrance:
And here’s a glimpse of where Grant Line Road (visible in the far-left margin) provides access to this entrance.
I particularly like this photo because it shows the aging sign as well as the sidewalk abutting Grant Line Road, along with the utility tower that essentially demarcates where the park and road intersect. This angle, taken from the park’s main access road, makes it much clearer.
Floyd County Parks and Recreation is investing more and more into Sam Peden Community Park, named after a Parks and Recreation Department director from a half century ago. Note the fancy bridge in the above photo, and the much more attractive sign in the photo below:
The vast majority of Sam Peden Community Park is far removed from the road; it occupies an unusually shaped lot with little street frontage. The Google Map illustrates this reasonably well.
Alex Thom Drive is the main vehicular access; the skinny green line on this map shows the pedestrian path. Both the road and mixed-use path parallel the high-tension wires and their enormous towers. Here’s a view of Alex Thom Drive halfway up the slope leading to the heart of the park.
And here’s the mixed-use path that parallels that access drive:
This narrow entrance hugs a private apartment development immediately adjacent to it.
But Alex Thom Drive and the mixed-use path continue for about a quarter mile before reaching any of the recreational features at Sam Peden Community Park, and that entire access route runs under high-tension wires. Here’s a point near the core of the park peering eastward toward Grant Line Road.
And here’s that same point peering westward.
I neglected to get any good photos of the prime recreational features at Sam Peden, but suffice it to say, it’s got a lot going on: fishing and non-motorized boating on Kiwanis Lake, five covered picnic shelters, four playgrounds, three restrooms, eleven tennis courts, a sand volleyball court, six horseshoe pits, and three basketball courts (you can’t have a functional park in Indiana without basketball). And it’s on a big patch of interior land that otherwise probably struggled to find a good use because the access from Grant Line Road was poor. And, customarily, people have been a tad fearful of those massive high tension wires. But, in due time, some good civic visionaries saw use in the land for all those fun things. Including that multi-use trail under the electric cables.
To be fair, the multi-use trail isn’t that long: 1.25 miles total. And, with Sam Peden Park as the centerpiece, it doesn’t really go that far. As indicated by the thin green line in the Google Maps, it links the sidewalk along Grant Line Road to Kiwanis Lake, loops around the perimeter of the park, then meanders down a hill connecting with Floyd County Fairgrounds and some residential areas to the west.
In short, the mixed-use trail here provides only a mild linkage, culminating in access to the amenities of San Peden Park. It falls far short of the goal that I proposed in that previous article at Pickwick Commons, and it certainly doesn’t offer the comprehensiveness or reach as some of the examples I cited previously. But it absolutely reveals that at least some planners, parks commissioners, or civic advocates in New Albany had an awareness and understanding of how to combine combining two easements—utility and pedestrian—and achieve recreational alchemy.
Best of all, the path for the multi-use trail leading to Sam Peden Community Park is part of the same high-tension utility line that traverses across Pickwick Commons. Here’s an aerial that illustrates this point:
I’ve outlined Sam Peden Community Park in orange. I’ve traced the Pickwick Commons subdivision (from my previous article) in pink. And the big blue arc shows the path of the high-tension wires. In the aerial photograph, the massive utility line is a lighter shade of green, indicating the forested land cleared to make way for those imposing towers.
The path is already there! Now we need someone with Sam Peden’s initiative to connect it all.