The Kelly Ward Memorial Pathway
Dr. Kelly Ward, a celebrated and respected member of the Washington State University community, passed away suddenly in 2018. Her compassion, commitment to supporting faculty development, and willingness to walk in another person’s shoes are commemorated in the creation of the Kelly Ward Memorial Pathway. By creating a unique and dedicated space on the WSU Pullman campus, faculty, and women faculty in particular, are encouraged to reach out and connect with one another in the ways that Kelly inspired.
To help create this space, which will enrich the WSU campus while honoring Kelly’s memory, a capital campaign has been established. The WSU administration has set aside a beautiful location on campus for the Kelly Ward Memorial Path, but additional funds are necessary to advance the project. Monies raised will help to offset costs associated with planning, design, implementation, and initial landscaping for the site. With sufficient support, the project will commence in 2020.
The Kelly Ward Memorial Path is envisioned as the first step toward generating an extension of the WSU arboretum, close enough to the main campus to fall within the pattern of daily or weekly use by the majority of students and faculty. It is imagined to be intimate in scale and to offer amenity spaces for use by picnickers, joggers, and most especially for contemplation and conversation. It is also imagined to be the first of several potential future projects to expand and enrich the connection to nature within the heart of campus.
Since no such quality exists at the present moment, much thought has been given about the anticipated character of the path and grounds. We drew principally from descriptions of Kelly’s character by her friends and family to create a portrait of how the space could best reflect Kelly:
- Connection – the path should serve as a way to connect people, broad enough to walk side by side, together, and remain in conversation.
- Lift people up – the path should take visitors from the entry point to the top of the site, and there should be opportunity to see one’s view of the world transform.
- Colorful – the path itself and the the areas around it should offer areas to see color, especially in contrast, like a printed fabric has, so that the multiple dimensions of color can be seen.
- Authentic – the path can be simple and made from natural materials found local to the Palouse.
- Accessible – the path should strive to maintain a 5% slope and a surface that is maintainable for persons with mobility issues to visit unimpeded.
The design concept for the path, as it currently stands, is a helix. It is not an out and back path by design because we want to reflect the transformation that happens when conversation is great. Visitors will arrive back at the same point, but from a different route, because in true conversation one does not know in advance how one will emerge. Perhaps the two paths can have a different rock material that mixes together at the top of the path to help further reinforce the effect.
The path also maintains an even slope of just under 5% as it rises through the trees that exist on the site. These trees are handy because they can serve as milestones marking progress along the path. To complement them, we anticipated widening the path at changes of direction to allow for people to rest or gather. The widened edges are drawn in the same way as the letters and graphic design in Celtic knots, which place an emphasis on continuity.
Markers are also placed along the way. The design is budgeting the inclusion of up to 12 split and polished large boulders to flank the path. The stones can offer seating for visitors and also use the polished sides to display graphics or text. This can either be planned in advance or added on in the future. Reflection was a major component of the design in how it responds to Kelly’s character and the desired character of the experience of walking the path.
At the apex of the path, the design includes a row of precast benches on either side of the pathway, which at this point should be sufficiently wide to allow people to converse together across the path or side by side. Our intent is to reuse some of the fieldstone and remaindered materials in the WSU materials storage area to create an informal edge between the pathway and the seating, enough room for knees to not be in the way of walkers.
In alignment with the path at this point of arrival would be a swath of wildflowers, perhaps sunflowers as well as other species that are native and offer different blooming times and repetitions so that the effect is preserved through the spring and summer. The swathe is meant to connect to the promontory on the west edge of the arboretum, and is meant to recall the wildflower strips that farmers add between their crops to help with pollination and resistance to pests and disease. The benefits to avoiding a monoculture in growth have long been known to the farming community, and we hope that the idea of the propagation of new ideas and new growth is a foundational idea to the path.
Along the way back out (or in) is a bounded lawn area dedicated for use by picnickers, frisbee players, and readers. This is the most flat area and we anticipated it would be nice to have an open space that is easy to shape to anchor the point of arrival to this arboretum extension.
Many of the elements above can be changed, and probably will change and transform as the project evolves, but it is important to note that landscapes have power, just as people do. This site is a powerful site and in harnessing that natural majesty we hope the incarnation of this laudable project will help capture the strength in the site in the same way Kelly helped many to find their own strength.