Porous path paves way
Aug. 31, 2010
The trail through the woods by MSU’s Wharton Center for Performing Arts is now environmentally friendly and safe for trees.
Senior Landscape Architect Dennis Hansen was approached by Kathy Lindahl, assistant vice president of Finance and Operations, regarding the worn-down nature of the trail.
“The path was eroded and the tree roots were compacted,” Hansen said. “It was in disarray, and it was frequently used.”
When Lindahl asked about replacing the path, Hansen suggested a path made out of Flexi-Pave material. Flexi-Pave material is made from recycled tires and stone and is environmentally safe.
“We’ve been wanting to do one [a path] that focused on recycling, green products and preserving the environment,” Hansen said. “A big reason for this project was to build something that could protect the trees but could also be maintained.”
Lindahl liked the idea of an environmentally friendly path and agreed to fund the project.
“We are looking at surfaces that are compatible with tree roots because we have a lot of paths that go through forest areas,” Lindahl said. “This Flexi-Pave material that Dennis suggested does just that.”
Before installation on the path began, Landscape Services Coordinator Paul Swartz, Arborist III/Group Leader Jerry Wahl, Grounds Attendent II Jared Woodend, Arborist I Jeffrey Pavlik and On Call Service/Maintenance Worker Terry Massie had to expose the tree roots to make sure that they would not be damaged during construction.
“We used an air spade, which is a device that blows supersonic air to move away the soil but not harm the roots to find out where exactly the root systems are,” Swartz said.
Landscape Architect II/Supervisor Adam Lawver and his crew, consisting of Grounds/Site/Construction/Group Leader Rudy Gaytan, Landscape Services Equipment Operator JohnJonckheere, Ag and Special Equipment Operators Mike Miller and Derek Proulx, and On Call Service/Maintenance Worker Alex Jeffrey, prepared the site before the material was laid.
The new Flexi-Pave material is a good alternative because concrete sidewalks damage tree roots and do not allow water to travel to the roots. Flexi-Pave is porous so water can flow to the roots. Concrete also changes the pH of the soil, creating a higher alkalinity, Swartz said.
“Our soils already have a high pH, so we have to treat the trees for higher alkalinity,” Swartz said.
Lights were installed around the path by Electrician IIs Joe Ellsworth and Larry Hall, Welder II Dale Schmitt, Maintenance Mechanic II Randy Boutell, and Crafts Worker IIIs James Williams, Terry Pearson, Michael Boyd and Mitchell McCaige. The electricians used directional boring to install the lights so they did not disturb any of the surrounding tree roots.
The path was installed by EasyPave Inc. and is the first of its kind in mid-Michigan.
“We have paths all over western Michigan because that’s where we’re based, but this is the first one in the Lansing area,” said Dave Ouwinga, president of EasyPave Inc.
Prior to the creation of Infrastructure Planning and Facilities in January 2013, several IPF departments were a part of the now-dissolved MSU Physical Plant. Some historical articles on this website reference that former unit.
Paths made out of Flexi-Pave material provide many benefits to their users. Here are some of the benefits people will get out of this new path.
The Flexi-Pave paths are made up of recycled tires and rocks. There are approximately 700 recycled tires in the Wharton Center path. This keeps the old tires from being thrown away. When tires are thrown away, they fill up landfills quickly.
The Flexi-Pave path is also porous in nature. This allows water that accumulates on top of the path to flow through the path into the soil. The tree roots are able to get the much-needed nutrients that they need as a result.
Flexi-Pave also helps walkers and runners on the new trail. The material that Flexi-Pave is made out of provides a shock-absorbing surface for people traveling on the trail. As a result, it reduces injuries that could be incurred on a concrete sidewalk.