As we celebrated the grand opening of the Nickel Plate Trail in downtown Fishers this past weekend, our driving principle to be “Designers of Possibility” was on full display. When we were invited to join this project, there were many possibilities developed and explored as part of the master plan and community engagement process led by a national planning and design firm. Their efforts informed some of the concepts that we were then in charge of finding a way to bring to reality.
A few examples are noted below:
- Saving the existing train depot structure (originally designed by Browning Day’s John Dierdorf) and converting it into a structure to support urban swings. Through several explorations of themes, materials and concepts, our team – in collaboration with the City of Fishers and Fishers Parks – landed on a series of unique, custom swings which provide a variety of seating options and configurations for all visitors. There is a solo swing, double swing, family swing and our favorite, an invert swing allowing the users to face each other.
- Creating a welcoming approach into and out of the tunnel under 116th Street was critical to the safety of trail users. Utilizing a series of terraces which step back from the primary trail pathway to retain grade, and filling those terraces with landscape plantings and lighting, softens the 15’ plus grade change. During the design phase, we worked on finding a balance between terrace heights and widths in order to be able to plant a variety of plant materials that will provide year-round season interest.
- The inclusion of a lighted guardrail with an open, airy, wire infill material was another design element which provides a safe, aesthetically interesting design element which carries through the entire downtown corridor.
- Working in and around existing overhead powerlines meant that we had to comply with many restrictions and criteria as part of the Duke Energy easement that runs the entire Nickle Plate Trail corridor. Limitations included no permanent structures or elements within certain distances, no large landscape plantings or permanent irrigation, and minimal hardscape and pathways. While these restrictions were challenging, through creativity and collaboration we were able to strategically place design elements and spaces that met the requirements, but for most users, they won’t even realize anything hindered the design.
- Among all the concrete paving and retaining walls, we wanted to find a way to integrate landscape plantings and alternative paving/surface materials to create more interest. This is evident through the selective use of elongated hexagonal pavers in seating areas, and the incorporation of an artificial turf play area – a welcome softscape respite for kids and families to enjoy.
The spaces and places created along and within the downtown Fishers portion of the Nickel Plate Trail will be enjoyed by thousands of residents and visitors and we hope our efforts to push the envelope on what was feasible and possible are well-received and used for years and generations to come.