Title:
Ditch corridor walkpath
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A walkway apparatus enabling lengthwise pedestrian utilization of the area above an open ditch and method for implementing the same. The walkway apparatus includes one or more walkpath surface sheets disposed lengthwise along the open corridor above the ditch. A primary support frame vertically supports the walkpath surface sheets above the ditch from one or both of the opposing ditch banks. In accordance with one embodiment, the primary support frame includes dual rail support members longitudinally disposed as substantially parallel tracks along each of the opposing banks such that the walkpath surface sheets are bilaterally supported along the opposing ditch banks. In an alternate embodiment, the walking surface sheets are unilaterally support from one ditch bank by a cantilevered vertical support frame.



Inventors:
Kennedy, Gregory (St. Augustine, FL, US)
Application Number:
10/408374
Publication Date:
10/07/2004
Filing Date:
04/07/2003
Assignee:
KENNEDY GREGORY
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E01C15/00; (IPC1-7): E01C5/16
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
HARTMANN, GARY S
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Gregory Kennedy (St Augustine, FL, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. An apparatus for providing lengthwise pedestrian utilization of the area above a ditch, said apparatus comprising walkpath means disposed longitudinally within the open corridor above the ditch such that the walkpath means accommodate lengthwise traversal of the ditch.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a plurality of access portals disposed at multiple locations along the length of the walkpath means, wherein said plurality of access portals provide multiple discrete entry or exit points for pedestrian traffic along said walkpath means.

3. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein at least one of said plurality of access portals comprises a sloped ramp extending upwardly from an adjacent ground surface to a walking surface of said walkpath means.

4. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein at least one of said plurality of access portals comprises one or more steps extending upwardly from an adjacent ground surface to a walking surface of said walkpath means.

5. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said walkpath means includes at least one substantially rectangular walkpath surface sheet longitudinally supported above the ditch.

6. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said at least one walkpath surface sheet is further characterized as comprising a translucent sheet that enables passage of sunlight therethrough to enable photosynthetic processes by plants growing within the ditch beneath said translucent sheet.

7. The apparatus of claim 6, wherein said translucent sheet is comprised of a material selected from among the group consisting of fully translucent material, semi-translucent material, fully transparent material, semi-transparent material, or semi-opaque material.

8. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said walking surface sheet includes multiple vent holes for permitting ingress and egress of gases and liquids through said translucent sheet into and out of the ditch.

9. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising vertical support means fixedly secured to one or both of the opposing banks of the ditch wherein said at least one walkpath surface sheet is removably supported by said vertical support means over a lengthwise segment of the ditch.

10. The walkway apparatus of claim 9, wherein the vertical support means comprises a cantilevered frame extendably supporting said translucent sheet from one of the opposing banks.

11. The apparatus of claim 10, wherein the cantilevered frame comprises multiple cantilevered trusses extended from the one of the opposing banks.

12. The apparatus of claim 9, wherein the vertical support means comprises dual rail support members longitudinally disposed as substantially parallel tracks along each of the opposing banks such that said at least one walkpath surface sheet is bilaterally supported along the opposing ditch banks.

13. The apparatus of claim 12, wherein the dual rail support members comprising one or more concrete blocks disposed lengthwise in parallel along each of the opposing ditch banks, wherein each of the concrete blocks includes a shoulder groove for receivably engaging the lateral edges of the walking sheet.

14. The apparatus of claim 12, wherein each track of the dual rail support members are aligned end-to-end along each of the opposing ditch banks, said aligned dual rail support members having intermittent gaps enabling lateral ingress and egress of water flow into or from the ditch.

15. The walkway apparatus of claim 12, wherein the dual rail support members include holes penetrating laterally therethrough to enable lateral ingress and egress of water flow into or from the ditch.

16. The apparatus of claim 9, further comprising walkpath support means that translates vertical support from the vertical support means to said at least one walkpath surface sheet.

17. The apparatus of claim 16, wherein said walkpath support means comprises at least one metal grate member bilaterally supported by said vertical support means.

18. A walkway apparatus enabling lengthwise pedestrian utilization of the area above an open ditch, said walkway apparatus comprising at least one translucent sheet disposed lengthwise along the open corridor above the ditch.

19. The walkway apparatus of claim 18, wherein the length to width ratio of said at least one lengthwise disposed translucent sheet accommodates lengthwise pedestrian traffic lengthwise along the open corridor above the ditch.

20. The walkway apparatus of claim 18, wherein the length to width ratio of the at least one longitudinally suspended translucent sheet is at least ten.

21. The walkway apparatus of claim 18, further comprising guardrails disposed in parallel along the lateral edges of said at least one translucent sheet.

22. The walkway apparatus of claim 18, further comprising a plurality of access portals disposed at multiple locations along the length of the walkway apparatus, wherein said plurality of access portals provide multiple discrete entry or exit points for pedestrian traffic along the lateral edges of said walkway apparatus.

23. The walkway apparatus of claim 22, wherein at least one of said plurality of access portals comprises a sloped ramp extending upwardly from an adjacent ground surface to a walking surface of said walkpath apparatus.

24. The walkway apparatus of claim 22, wherein at least one of said plurality of access portals comprises one or more steps extending upwardly from an adjacent ground surface to a walking surface of said walkpath apparatus.

25. The walkway apparatus of claim 18, wherein said at least one translucent sheet is comprised of a material selected from among the group consisting of fully translucent material, semi-translucent material, fully transparent material, semi-transparent material, or semi-opaque material.

26. The walkway apparatus of claim 18, said at least one translucent sheet having an upper surface facing upwardly away from the ditch and a lower surface facing downwardly toward the ditch, and further characterized as comprising material enabling passage of sunlight from the upper surface to the lower surface and through the lower surface into the ditch to enable photosynthetic processes by plants growing within the ditch beneath said at least one translucent sheet.

27. The walkway apparatus of claim 18, wherein said at least one translucent sheet includes a non-skid surface.

28. The walkway apparatus of claim 18, wherein the ditch is further characterized as selected from the group consisting of ditches, channels, or canals.

29. The walkway apparatus of claim 18, wherein the ditch is characterized as including running in close parallel proximity to a vehicular traffic roadway.

30. The walkway apparatus of claim 18, wherein said translucent sheet includes multiple vent holes for permitting ingress and egress of gases and liquids through said translucent sheet into and out of the ditch.

31. The walkway apparatus of claim 18, further comprising primary support means for supporting said at least one translucent sheet along the open corridor above the ditch from at least one of the opposing banks of the ditch.

32. The walkway apparatus of claim 31, wherein said primary support means comprises a cantilevered frame extendably supporting said translucent sheet from one of the opposing banks.

33. The walkway apparatus of claim 28, wherein said cantilevered frame comprises multiple cantilevered trusses extended from the one of the opposing banks.

34. The walkway apparatus of claim 31, wherein said primary support means comprises dual rail support members longitudinally disposed as substantially parallel tracks along each of the opposing banks such that said at least one translucent sheet is bilaterally supported along the opposing ditch banks.

35. The walkway apparatus of claim 34, wherein each track of said dual rail support members are aligned end-to-end along each of the opposing ditch banks, said aligned dual rail support members having intermittent gaps enabling lateral ingress and egress of water flow into or from the ditch.

36. The walkway apparatus of claim 34, wherein said dual rail support members include holes penetrating laterally therethrough to enable lateral ingress and egress of water flow into or from the ditch.

37. The walkway apparatus of claim 34, further comprising secondary support means that translates vertical support from said primary support means to said at least one translucent sheet.

38. The walkway apparatus of claim 37, wherein said secondary support means comprises at least one metal grate member bilaterally supported by said primary support means.

39. The walkway apparatus of claim 34, wherein said dual rail support members are further characterized as being concrete blocks on which said at least one translucent sheet is supported above the banks of the ditch.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] 1. Technical Field

[0002] The present invention relates generally to the field of walking paths and sidewalks, and in particular to an apparatus for enabling lengthwise pedestrian utilization of the area above a ditch.

[0003] 2. Description of the Related Art

[0004] Water drainage systems comprising one or more ditches, canals arroyos, etc., are commonly utilized in and around communities and farms as a means of draining and redirecting excess rainfall to prevent flooding or undesirable water collection and retention. Ditches are commonly dug lengthwise in parallel with the sides of major traffic thoroughfares to control flooding thereon, particularly in areas in which road, building, and home construction have dramatically reduced the exposed earth surface area on which the rain or runoff may be absorbed into the ground. In addition to reducing roadway flood hazards, the disposition of drainage ditches adjacent to streets and highways is logistically convenient in terms of minimizing the obstruction posed by ditches to the community layout.

[0005] There are a variety of known types of drainage conduit trenches including open ditches, culverts, closed aqueducts, etc. Having low construction and maintenance costs and relatively high water drainage capacity, open ditches are the most commonly utilized type of community drainage system. While effective for addressing flooding and long term water drainage issues, conventional drainage systems often present major logistical problems in terms of consuming valuable space along the edges of roadways that might otherwise be utilized as sidewalks, bicycle paths, etc. This problem is particularly acute in areas neighborhoods or other developed areas not originally designed to accommodate pedestrian and cyclist traffic and in which the roadside area occupied by open ditches leaves little if any room for a pedestrian and cyclist parallel to the roadway.

[0006] It can therefore be appreciated that a need exists for an apparatus and method that address the foregoing problems associated with the pedestrian utilization limits imposed by roadside ditches. The present invention addresses such a need.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0007] A walkway apparatus enabling lengthwise pedestrian utilization of the area above an open ditch and method for implementing the same are disclosed herein. The walkway apparatus includes one or more walkpath surface sheets disposed lengthwise along the open corridor above the ditch. A primary support frame vertically supports the walkpath surface sheets above the ditch from one or both of the opposing ditch banks. In accordance with one embodiment, the primary support frame includes dual rail support members longitudinally disposed as substantially parallel tracks along each of the opposing banks such that the walkpath surface sheets are bilaterally supported along the opposing ditch banks. In an alternate embodiment, the walking surface sheets are unilaterally support from one ditch bank by a cantilevered vertical support frame.

[0008] The above as well as additional objects, features, and advantages of the present invention will become apparent in the following detailed written description.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0009] The novel features believed characteristic of the invention are set forth in the appended claims. The invention itself however, as well as a preferred mode of use, further objects and advantages thereof, will best be understood by reference to the following detailed description of an illustrative embodiment when read in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein:

[0010] FIGS. 1A and 1B illustrate overhead and cross section profile views, respectively, of an open ditch walkway apparatus in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

[0011] FIG. 2 is a cross section view of a cantilevered open ditch walkway apparatus in accordance with an alternative embodiment of the present invention; and

[0012] FIGS. 3A and 3B depict cross section and overhead views, respectively, of a cantilevered open ditch walkway apparatus in accordance with an alternative embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF A PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0013] The present invention is described in a preferred embodiment in the following description with reference to the figures. While this invention is described in terms of the best mode for achieving this invention's objectives, it will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that variations may be accomplished in view of these teachings without deviating from the spirit or scope of the invention.

[0014] As explained in further detail with reference to the figures, the present invention is directed to an improved walkway, sidewalk, or similar pedestrian pathway that enables lengthwise pedestrian utilization of the otherwise unusable open corridor area above an open ditch. The design features of the walkpath apparatus of the present invention provide an unobtrusive and ecologically friendly pedestrian traffic path supported by the natural contour of most drainage ditches. In contrast to bridges, causeways, and similar constructs, which enable traffic to laterally cross over a body of water or other natural or manmade obstacle, the walkpath of the present invention advantageously enables lengthwise traversal along the open corridor above a ditch. Furthermore, in contrast to trench grates that are used in driveways, parking lots, and the like which provide a supporting surface for vehicular or pedestrian traffic while permitting the collection of storm water, the present invention provides a more suitable pedestrian path wherein water flows laterally into the ditch without presenting an inconvenient and potentially dangerous obstacle on the walkway itself. The terms “pedestrian path,” “pedestrian utilization,” “walkway path”, or other similar terms that are utilized interchangeably in the following description and claims in describing the invention, refer to a surface path designed primarily for lengthwise traversal by pedestrians, bicycles, roller skates, roller blades or other modes of primarily manual mechanized travel means of the open corridor above a ditch. Although it may be possible to drive or ride larger motorized vehicles on the ditch walkway of the present invention, many of the possible features explained in further detail below make such standard street traffic utilization impracticable if not impossible.

[0015] With reference now to the figures, and in particular with reference to FIGS. 1A and 1B, there are shown overhead and cross section profiles views, respectively, illustrating an open ditch walkway apparatus 10 in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. As shown in FIGS. 1A and 1B, walkway apparatus 10 includes apparatus support features enabling a walking sheet surface 2 to be supported in a lengthwise manner along the corridor above an otherwise open ditch 16. As utilized herein the terms “ditch,” is used interchangeably with terms such as “trench,” “canal”, “arroyo” and other similar designations of relatively narrow, shallow open water drainage conduits that are designed to contain and redirect rainwater or runoff which would otherwise rise and collect on roads or other community infrastructure. It should be noted that the present invention is designed to provide a walkway primarily suited for travel along the length of open ditch 16 and that the relatively short representative segment of walkway apparatus 10 depicted in FIG. 1A is but one of segment of a larger path constructed from such subassemblies.

[0016] In the depicted embodiment, the walkway support features comprise primary support means in the form of dual rail support members 4 that are longitudinally disposed as substantially parallel tracks along each of the opposing ditch banks 15 that provide a bilateral and elevated (with respect to bank surface 15) vertical support forum for the one or more walkpath surface sheets 2. Specifically, and in accordance with a preferred embodiment, dual rail support members 4 comprise one or more concrete blocks disposed lengthwise in parallel along each of the opposing ditch banks 15, and further include longitudinal shoulder grooves 12 in which the lateral edges of the walkpath surface sheets 2 may be vertically supported and horizontally bounded and retained. L-shaped metallic reinforcement supports 18 provide additional support and protection of the concrete shoulders 12 to prevent chipping or cracking of the concrete shoulder surface.

[0017] It should be noted that any number of such concrete rail members can be aligned end-to-end along each of the opposing ditch banks 15 to form a substantially continuous ditch walkway extending for hundreds of yards or even miles. Given the role of ditch 16 as a drainage repository for storm and runoff water, the structure and/or disposition of the dual rail support members 4 are designed to permit lateral adjacent ingress and egress of water into or from ditch 16. To this end, and as further illustrated in FIGS. 1A and 1B, dual rail support members 4 include laterally penetrating apertures or holes 8 extending from the adjacent bank areas to the ditch 16 under walkpath surface sheets 2. In an alternative approach to enabling lateral ingress and egress of water into and out of ditch 16, dual rail support members 4 may be aligned end-to-end with gaps left regularly or intermittently therebetween.

[0018] The one or more walkpath surface sheets 2 depicted in FIGS. 1A and 1B are preferably composed of a number of relatively thin rectangular sheets ranging in thickness from 0.5″ to 2.0.″ The sheets are may be constructed of various materials having suitable rigidity, strength, and impact and corrosion resistance characteristics suitable for supporting a maximum anticipated weight of traffic. Such sheet materials may include metals, wood, acrylic plastics, polymers, etc. In alternative embodiments, walking surface sheets 2 may either be solid flat sheets or may include multiple vent holes for permitting ingress and egress of gases and liquids through the sheets into and out of ditch 16. For pedestrian traffic safety, and in a preferred embodiment, walking surface sheets 2 include a non-skid upper surface providing adequate foot traction particularly when the walking surface becomes wet.

[0019] The construction and choice of materials utilized for walkpath surface sheets 2 are significant in regard to the lengthwise disposition of open ditch walkway apparatus 10 over and along the open corridor above ditch 16. In particular, it is well known to those familiar with water drainage systems that it is necessary to maintain a significant growth of rooted plants in and around an open ditch such as ditch 16 and its banks to prevent excessive erosion of soil from the ditch and furthermore to serve as chemical pollution control agents whereon many toxic substances such as pesticides will bind. Without sufficient sunlight, the vegetation growing on the bottom and side surfaces of ditch 16 soon dies, resulting in excessive erosion of the ditch, downsteam silt pollution, and reduced toxic filtration. Handful sunlight blockage is not a problem for bridges or other lateral crossing devices because even for wide bridges, the lateral traversal design renders any incidental sunlight deprivation relatively insignificant to the undergrowing vegetation which is either subjected to only temporary daylight cycle determined sunlight deprivation or is simply too small an area of coverage to significantly contribute to ground erosion or reduced toxic pollution control.

[0020] In contrast to such lateral cross paths, such as bridges, which accommodate cross-wise or lateral crossing of an underlaying waterway or trench, the longitudinal disposition of multiple walkpath sheets 2 accommodates lengthwise pedestrian traffic along the open area above the ditch and consequently presents a potentially significant problem of temporally and spatially extensive sunblockage of vegetation within ditch 16. The present invention addresses this potential problem in two primary ways. First, and referring to the embodiment depicted in FIGS. 1A and 1B, the lateral edges of walkpath surface sheets 2 are placed and rest on the metallic reinforcements 18 of shoulder grooves 12 with little or no fastening means required to couple the walkpath surface sheets 2 onto the dual rail support members 4. In this manner, walkpath sheets 2 can be removably placed and removed as desired to enable sufficient sunlight exposure for a sufficient time for the ditch plants to grow or recuperate.

[0021] Given the inconvenience and disruption incident to removing segments of the open ditch walkway, however, and referring again to FIGS. 1A and 1B, a preferred embodiment of the present invention addresses the problem of prolonged vegetation sunblockage in an alternate manner, namely, by constructing walkpath surface sheets 2 of a translucent or semi-translucent sheet material. Specifically, a preferred walkpath surface sheet 2 is preferably composed of an acrylic, plastic, glass or other material enabling passage of sunlight from its upper surface (i.e. facing upwardly away from ditch 16) to and through the lower surface facing downwardly (i.e. toward the ditch surface) into ditch 16 to enable photosynthetic processes by rooted plants growing within ditch 16 beneath the one or more translucent walkpath surface sheets 2. In this manner, sufficient sunlight will be adequately passed and/or diffused and evenly distributed along the bottom and side water-boundary surfaces of ditch 16. As utilized herein, “translucent” is intended to mean and encompass any and all materials or combinations of materials that exhibit the property of enabling passing of a sufficient quantity (i.e. intensity) and quality (i.e. wavelengths conducive to photosynthesis processes) of sunlight to pass therethrough and into the ditch surface. Furthermore, as utilized herein, “translucent” denotes several suitably light transmitting/absorbing characteristics including translucent, semi-translucent, transparent, semi-transparent, and semi-opaque.

[0022] Open ditch walkway 10 preferably includes secondary support means in the form of one or more metal grates 6 that are placed in a supportive position below walkpath surface sheets 2 onto the L-shaped metallic reinforcement sleeves 18 wherein the lateral edges of metal grates 6 are bilaterally vertically supported across ditch 16 by shoulder grooves 12. Disposed in the manner depicted in FIGS. 1A and 1B, metal grates 6 provide substantial secondary support that translates vertical bilateral support from dual rail support members 4 to walkpath surface sheets 2. The secondary support provided by metal grates 6 may be necessary to ensure adequate bilateral support stability and safety for a relatively wide walkway. Furthermore, in the case of a highly translucent or transparent walkpath sheet 2, the metal grating viewable from below the walkpath provides significant psychological assurance to pedestrians who might otherwise hesitate to enter the walkpath.

[0023] As further illustrated in FIGS. 1A and 1B, open ditch walkway 10 further includes one or more access portals 14 disposed at one or more offset (i.e. not directly opposing) locations along the lateral edges of open ditch walkway 10. The one or more access portals 14 provide multiple discrete entry or exit points for pedestrian traffic along the lateral edges of open ditch walkway 10. As shown in the depicted embodiment, access portal 14 comprises a sloped ramp extending upwardly from an adjacent ground surface to the pedestrian traffic surface of walkpath surface sheet 2 enabling pedestrians, including handicapped persons, to conveniently access open ditch walkway 10 at selected lateral points of entry. Although not expressly depicted in the figures, one or more of access portals 14 may take the form of one or more stepped ramps comprising one or more steps extending upwardly from the adjacent ground surface to the walking surface of open ditch walkway 10.

[0024] In an alternate embodiment of the present invention, the dual rail walkway apparatus may be replaced with a cantilevered design that may be less obtrusive when, for example, heavy tree growth or other natural or manmade obstacles restrict construction accessibility on both banks of a ditch. With reference to FIG. 2, there is depicted a cross section view of an alternative embodiment of the present invention in which a cantilevered open ditch walkway apparatus 20 serves as the primary support means for supporting the walkpath. Specifically, a cantilevered walkway apparatus 20 is illustrated having a support frame comprising slip-on cantilevered trusses 28 that provide vertical support for walking surface sheet 2. Cantilevered trusses 28 are anchored to ditch bank 15 by attachment of the bankside edges of trusses 28 to one or more corrugated drive plates 26, which are fixedly engaged within a suitably sized retention pocket 24. For pedestrian traffic safety, a guardrail 22 is disposed along the distal lateral edge of walkway apparatus 20 overhanging ditch 16. The combination corrugated drive plate/retention pocket units are prefereably fixed at regular intervals along ditch bank 15 with the retention pocket typically ranging from 15″ to 24″ wide and corrugated drive plate 26 ranging from 17″ to 22″ wide. In alternative embodiments, walking surface sheet 2 may comprise a translucent or semi-translucent material and furthermore may be vertically supported within the cantilevered frame by a secondary support means such as a metal grate as previously described with reference to FIGS. 1A and 1B.

[0025] Referring to FIGS. 3A and 3B, there are depicted cross section and overhead views, respectively, of a variation of the cantilevered design approach in accordance with an alternative embodiment of the present invention. Specifically, a cantilevered walkway apparatus 30 is depicted in which a retention pocket 34 on the proximal end of a cantilevered support frame 32 is fitted over a concrete piling support member 36. Cantilevered support frame 32 may be constructed of a variety of materials having suitable strength, rigidity, and corrosion resistance properties, and in a preferred embodiment is fabricated as a pre-cast aluminum frame. As shown in FIG. 3A, substantial portions of cantilevered support frame 32 and concrete piling support member 36 may be buried within ditch bank 15 for addition support. The walkpath surface sheet 2 of cantilevered walkway apparatus 30 is preferably a non-skid surface supported by metal grate 6 within the cantilevered support frame 32, and may possess sunlight-translucent properties as explained with reference to FIGS. 1A, 1B, and 2.

[0026] While this invention has been described in terms of several embodiments, it is contemplated that alterations, permutations, and equivalents thereof will become apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art upon reading this specification in view of the drawings supplied herewith. It is therefore intended that the invention and any claims related thereto include all such alterations, permutations, and equivalents that are encompassed by the spirit and scope of this invention.