Herald JournalHerald Journal, Sept. 22, 2003

Property owners strongly object to bike trail

By Lynda Jensen

Four property owners attended the Howard Lake council meeting to vigorously protest plans of making a bike and walking trail around the northeast side of the lake.

The trail is planned for public right-of-way property along the east side of Wright County Road 7, and then crosses over to Imhoff on the north side of the road.

If constructed, the trail would be paid for almost entirely by developer park dedication fees being collected from the Lake Ridge development north of town.

The trail was hailed as a popular idea in previous public meetings, especially for people who were concerned about safety walking beside Wright County Road 7 on their way to Lions Park.

"It was the biggest request of people who came to the meetings," Council Member Don Danford said.

Bob Heber and Fran Wren protested plans to put the walking path in front of their properties, and were upset that they weren't given mailed notices.

The trail would clip both front yards closely on both properties.

A third resident who was not identified, noted that his property had no back yard, and the trail would run across his front yard. "It's all I have," he said.

"It would seem to me that maybe feedback of landowners should be a step in there somewhere," Heber said.

Mayor Gerry Smith told Heber and Wren that public meetings were published in the paper, and that the trail is planned for public right of way, not private property.

"This is exactly what right of way is for," commented city engineer Brad DeWolf.

Smith also noted the trail is in its conceptual stages and wasn't being approved that night, although Heber and Wren protested that city projects seem to get approved before anyone can protest, they said.

"This is what the public asked for, and it's not costing the taxpayers one cent," Smith said.

Smith pointed out that he personally notified one of the men to let them know what was going on.

"We communicate by cable, and the newspaper. We can only do so much," Smith said.

"Why go into an established area?" Heber asked. The trail would be 15 to 20 feet away from his deck ­ placing foot traffic right by his house, he said.

"It just doesn't seem reasonable. Why build it in the center of our property?" Heber asked.

"I'm very, very much opposed to it because it runs through my property," Heber said.

The men suggested installing a trail somewhere else, on the south end of town.

Both men also said the trail was not safe near County Road 7, being in close proximity of traffic, and asked about slower speed signs.

The road is owned by the county and a speed study must be done to change the posted limit, DeWolf said. The posted limit is 85 percent of what people currently travel there, which means the speed could theoretically increase.

In addition, the trail would require crossing busy Wright County Road 7 twice, since it is located across the street on the east side from Lions Park, and another crossing from County Road 7 to Imhoff.

Heber and Wren wanted to know if the path could be added on as a shoulder to the existing road.

For safety reasons, it would be better to get people away from traffic and have a physical barrier or parcel of grass between the road, DeWolf said. Although this idea is possible since there are some areas that are tight due to trees, where the trail meanders, he said

Wren made a reference to children being run over, but Smith asked him what the children are doing now.

"If we can't slow the traffic, then we should at least give them a safe place," Smith said.

Heber and Wren told the council that if someone wanted to go to Lions Park, they should drive and not walk.

Heber and Wren also disputed the width of the path, which was planned for eight feet wide.

DeWolf confirmed that trails are usually 10 feet wide according to standard safety guidelines when it comes to mixed traffic (foot and bike), but can be downsized to eight. The Howard Lake trail was tentatively planned for eight.

The cost of the trail was projected to be $217,000, which will be paid for by park dedication fees if the project goes forward.

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