A Disappeared Path, a Parking Lot Curiosity, and Abbot Road Closures?

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The sloped path near the rainbow steps that lead from Oakhill Ave. to Valley Court Park was removed by the City, and a fence was added to stop people from traversing where it used to be.

As your public service local news organization, we regularly bring you a column we call Ask ELi to Investigate. You send us your questions about East Lansing, and we try to get them answered. Today, we bring answers to three reader questions from the mailbag plus some information about upcoming Abbot Rd. closures, even though we’ve not been asked about that yet.

“Are there any plans to redo the path on the Oakhill [Ave.] side of Valley Court Park? There used to be both a path and stairs, but the path has been removed, leaving only the stairs (the rainbow steps). This makes access from the Oakhill side by stroller difficult. (Background: we walk from the Glencairn neighborhood to Peoples Church daily for our 1-year-old son’s daycare. Since Evergreen [Ave.] is closed, the most direct route for us would be to cut through the park, but the stairs make cutting through with a stroller difficult. I know there are several other families in a similar situation).”

The whole right-of-way of Evergreen Ave. from Oakhill Ave. south to Albert Ave. has been closed for weeks now due t major sewer and road work, and it is set to be closed for months more. This has left fewer ways to get from the Glencairn and Oakwood neighborhoods south to Grand River Ave., and as the reader reports, with the City having removed the slope-trail that was next to the rainbow steps, there’s no easy way to get a stroller or bicycle down the hill in that area.

Asked about this, East Lansing’s Assistant Director of Parks & Rec Wendy Wilmers Longpre wrote: “The pathway that you are asking about behind Valley Court Community Center was removed last fall. The pavement had degraded and become unstable, making it dangerous for use.”

Wilmers Longpre explains, “We did not replace the pathway at that time because the slope far exceeded ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] standards and it could not be brought into compliance without considerable engineering and cost. Given the change in elevation between Valley Court and Oakhill Avenue, it is unlikely that the pathway will be replaced in the near future.”

The City has talked about wanting to redevelop the land where the path used to be, including the land where the community center now stands. That’s partly because the community center building is in very bad condition. This idea of redeveloping that property probably adds to the disincentive to invest in a replacement path that would meet the requirements of the ADA – like one that zigzags – because such a path might not be there for long. (Read about who painted the steps in this story from ELi’s archives.)

The removal of the path means that, even when Evergreen Ave. reopens, there will be no ramped way for people to get from the neighborhood to the park (and the farmers’ market, community center, etc.), except to go all the way around to Evergreen or Hillcrest Aves., a very circuitous route.

“Hi there, this morning I drove by MSU’s Lot 89 (intersection of Farm Lane and Mt. Hope [Road], across from the FCU location), and saw that it is packed with cars with no license plates. Is MSU contracting to become the storage facility for some car manufacturer or dealership?”

“Hey, ELi! So on our way back from a family hike on the south river trail last weekend, I drove past the parking lots at MSU just off Mount Hope Road (across from the Farm Lane Branch of MSUFCU) and noticed that it looked like they were being used as a GM holding area for new SUVs, perhaps from the Delta Township plant? I don’t think I have heard anything about this, but was wondering if in your ‘ear to the ground’ you had heard about any deal or why there would be so many what looks like brand new GM SUVs (they had no license plates on them) parked there under the solar awnings. Thanks!”

Yup, we got the same question from two different readers on the same day! We love that you all think of us when you wonder about a local issue!

University Spokesperson Emily Guerrant answered this one for us:

“A short-term lease has been signed with Lee and Associates commercial real estate services to use Lot 89 for vehicle storage. Lot 89 was not being used as it was closed for Spring Semester to save on costs for snow plowing.”

In 2016, East Lansing’s City Council granted Inovateus Solar a personal property tax exemption for the solar array installed in MSU’s parking lots.

Guerrant explains further: “The parking system at MSU is self-supported and receives no funding from the university general fund. Revenue from the short-term lease will be committed to the parking reserve and will help offset maintenance costs in other parking areas. The solar car ports in Lot 89 will not be disabled and will continue to generate energy for campus.”

The lease with Lee and Associates will be up in mid-June, “and then we’ll be preparing for the fall semester and more employees and students back on campus (and needing parking!)”

Why are sections of Abbot Road being closed?

Right now, a section of Abbot Rd., from Elizabeth St. to Albert Ave., is closed downtown and will remain closed for about two weeks as part of the Evergreen sewer project. Work crews are tying the various parts of the sewer system together. Once that’s done, that notoriously bumpy section of Abbot Rd. will be repaved and repainted.

Starting on May 10, weather permitting, the City will redo Abbot Rd. between Saginaw St. and Lake Lansing Rd. This will be a big project as it includes some sidewalk replacement, new sidewalk ramps, a redo of the roadbed, and restriping the area, reducing the car lanes from four to three (northbound, southbound, and center turn lane) and adding two bike lanes. That section is supposed to be done by Aug. 13 of this year.

The Evergreen sewer project, which has involved the removal of numerous mature trees and a complete dig-up of the right-of-way.

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