UI ravine receives facelift


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A main pedestrian artery linking east and west campus is receiving a bit of a facelift before students return this fall.

The brick pavement will be replaced with concrete, said Bob Brooks, the University of Iowa Facilities Management associate director of building and landscape services. The existing globe lights will be replaced with the university’s standard walkway lights, the limestone in the wall will be replaced, and a storm-management system will be installed at the base of the ravine.

The ravine contains a wooded path that runs from across the street from the Pharmacy Building along the backside of Quadrangle, and Bowen Science Building, where it then intersects with other pedestrian pathways.

The storm-management system will include a rain garden, Brooks said. A rain garden is an area in which storm water collects temporarily and is filtered somewhat by plants before being slowly discharged into the sewer system.

The reconstruction of the north side of the ravine, which is phase one of a multiphase project, began May 20, Brooks said, and he expects an open sidewalk and operational lighting by mid-August, before the fall semester begins.

Until then, the main east-to-west path through the ravine is closed to pedestrian traffic, but the route from Quad to Bowen is open.

The second phase, which will address the south side of the ravine, will not begin until construction on the new pharmacy building begins on the current site of Quadrangle in two to three years, he said. The plans for phase two are not yet complete.

Brooks said the current construction costs $800,000, and the future phases are estimated to cost an additional $1.4 million.

The university’s website confirms this, listing the estimated cost to rehabilitate the quad ravine as roughly $2.2 million.

“While there have been no major safety issues in [the] Quad ravine over the past decade, we incorporate safety into all designs with proper placement of plant material to minimize visual obstructions and proper light levels,” Brooks said.

Associate Professor John Hosp, the head of the Department of Teaching and Learning at the UI, said he usually walks the Quad ravine twice daily during the week.

“[The construction] doesn’t add too much to my commute because I cut down Newton to Wolf,” he said, adding that it only adds two to three minutes. “I think it’s a valuable project because the stairs were treacherous, and it was not a well lighted area. This is one of the main crosses across the river. It seems to me that there’s probably a good amount of traffic.”

At completion, the project will have 23 lights along the three legs of the Quad ravine, Brooks said. The new lights will eliminate the light pollution created by the globes’ not directing the light downward.

“One of the biggest safety issues in the Quad Ravine over the past decade has been to ongoing deterioration of pavement, steps and retaining walls. This project will correct these deficiencies,” Brooks said.

While he is not aware of any injuries, Brooks said a considerable amount of time and expense is spent every year to repair the worst spots.

“For many years, the old stone features in the Quad ravine have been deteriorating due to the soft nature of the stone that was used,” Brooks said. “Salvaging that stone is extremely difficult because of its softness, so current plans call for new construction to utilize a different, stronger stone and create the feel of the limestone outcroppings that are part of the landscape in this part of campus.”

While the new limestone, which was quarried in Indiana, is similar in color to the old limestone, it is much stronger and more durable, Brooks said.

In addition to reducing the maintenance cost, Brooks said, “Retaining this quiet open space and the memories it holds is a significant reason to retain and improve the conditions in the ravine.”

Brooks said the ravine has existed since the early days of the university, when it was more open with mowed turf. The stonewalls and steps were added in the 1930s.

“At that time, the area began to transition into a more natural wooded environment that most of us know today,” he said.

UI junior Olivia Pittman, who is majoring in biochemistry and biology, said she walks the ravine every day during the week.

“It’s been kind of an inconvenience because I try to cross Newton and there’s no real crosswalk, so it’s kind of a pain,” she said, adding that it adds about 10 minutes to her daily walk. “I didn’t see really what was wrong with it in the first place, but I don’t walk here at night.”

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