A conversation with Neil Brumleve, Massie Massie & Associates, project landscape designer
LMG: Tell us about the design of the trail. Massie Massie & Associates (MMA) has been involved with the Garden for many years. How did you approach the design of this accessible addition?
Neil: Tom Wilkin and Joel Horwedel came to MMA with a vision to create an accessible trail in order for everyone to enjoy the beauty of the Garden. The design elements we are hoping to have visitors experience include native tree groves, open prairie meadows, framed views along the trails and Jens Jensen’s signature stone council rings.
The trail loop selected follows an existing wood chip trail that includes all these design elements, and the proximity to the Nature Center made decisions such as the location and layout of this trail fairly simple.
LMG: What will those who experience the new trail learn about the Garden?
Neil: I think those using the short trail loop will experience many of the key design elements that are incorporated throughout the Garden. Shady areas and filtered sun openings along the trail provide a unique experience, and the curved walkway will keep people wondering what is around the next turn.
Council Ring #3 is tucked at the edge of a wooded area about midway along the length of the trail. From this location visitors have views of an open prairie meadow with Lake Springfield in the background. I am very excited about providing an accessible walkway to one of the Garden’s council rings as they are the signature design element to many of Jensen’s designs.
LMG: Who do you hope this trail will open the Garden up to, now that there is an accessible extension?
Neil: This trail will be enjoyed by everyone from toddlers just beginning to take those first steps to the elderly who might not feel comfortable walking on anything other than a smooth, uniform surface. People using wheelchairs, walkers or canes will also be able to experience the Garden on a comfortable, easy to navigate surface.
LMG: Tell us about the new entrance to the Nature Center as part of the project.
Neil: Replacing the entry sidewalk to the Nature Center provides an opportunity to create an outdoor gathering space. This plaza will be used by school groups, clubs, and other organizations that use the Garden for various activities and events. It will also be a nice area for individuals to sit and enjoy the natural environment.
A new stone seat wall (half council ring) and permeable unit pavers will define the plaza area just outside the Nature Center entrance. Stone similar to the existing council rings will be used, and the permeable unit pavers will help alleviate the drainage problem that has persisted in front of the Nature Center for years.
LMG: When will visitors begin to see the construction?
Neil: Weather permitting, construction could begin as early as November and last for a couple of months. If weather becomes an issue, construction could be delayed until spring of 2020, as pouring exposed aggregate sidewalks in cold weather is not recommended.
LMG: Will construction affect visiting the Garden?
Neil: The Garden will still be open during construction, although use of the area where the new trail will be constructed will be restricted. A temporary entrance walkway will allow access to the Nature Center from the parking area along East Lake Shore Drive for the duration of the project.
Construction timeline: Early November to late December (weather permitting). If the weather does not cooperate, work could be postponed until early spring 2020.
Length of the trail: 95 feet of replacement sidewalk and 370 feet of new sidewalk for a total of 465 feet of new accessible trail surface.
Width of the trail: 6 feet wide
Landscape Design: Massie Massie & Associates
Cost estimate: $110,000
Massie Massie & Associates (MMA) is a land planning and landscape architecture firm located in Springfield. In business since 1975, the firm offers the services of experienced planning and licensed landscape architects to individuals, corporations, foundations and public agencies. MMA has been involved in several projects at the Garden throughout the years, including the master plan for the Garden in 2001, development of the Ostermeier Prairie Center, design of the map shelter, the paver parking area along East Lake Shore Drive, front entry improvements and various other small projects.
Neil Brumleve is a licensed landscape architect at Massie Massie & Associates. He began working at MMA in 2006 shortly after receiving his bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Illinois. He works on a wide variety of projects, incorporating sustainable design approaches whenever possible. Neil rejoined the Abraham Lincoln Memorial Garden Foundation Board in April 2019 after previously serving on the board from 2009 to 2012.
“The Lincoln Memorial Garden Foundation is committed to all who wish to enjoy many elements of the Garden. This project reflects the passion that was started so many years ago by the founders of the Garden led by Harriet Knudson, with more than 50 individuals and groups donating to make the trail happen.”
– Tom Wilken, Past President of Lincoln Memorial Garden Foundation