Herald JournalHerald Journal, Nov. 17, 2003

Residents along trail speak about proposed bike path

By Lynda Jensen

Two dozen residents attended a spicy public hearing about the proposed bike trail along Wright County Road 7 before the Howard Lake City Council meeting last Monday.

Most of the residents were homeowners along the proposed route, some protesting the idea of the trail going across their properties, based on privacy.

However, not all property owners are against the idea, since a petition was signed nearly a month ago by six homeowners along the trail that are in favor of it.

The homeowners at the meeting presented their own petition with 22 names on it against it.

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 Avenue on the north side of the road.

If constructed, the trail would be paid for almost entirely by developer park dedication fees.

The DNR is unlikely to approve permits for the trail on the other side of the road, because it involves backfilling areas near the lake elevation, reported City Engineer Brad DeWolf.

Some suggested construction of a larger park at the development, and wondered why the trail didn't go through the parks commission.

During the meeting, the difference of opinion was evident.

Resident Bob Heber vigorously objected to the trail once again, since it would clip his property closely.

"We don't object to anyone walking across our properties," Heber said.

"We object to an eight-foot slab of tar added to our front yards," Heber said.

Heber took issue with the safety of traffic and the speed limit along Wright County Road 7.

However, the engineer indicated a bike path with a minimum three-foot grass buffer is considered more safe for walkers and bikers along such a road.

Jane Heber worried about the crossing at Lions Park to the east side of county road 7, describing it as very unsafe for children.

She asked how far the crossing is to the railroad tracks and how turning traffic might approach children trying to cross the street to the path.

"I hate to think of spending summers listening to squealing tires, holding my breath each time," she said.

"I think a trail would be a wonderful addition to this community," resident Gordon Gruenhagen said. "Especially how it's paid for."

Resident Berwyn Schmidt agreed, saying he would like to see a trail.

Heber suggested people walk on other streets in town. "People can find lots of places to walk," he said.

Previously, engineers met with property owners individually to show them where the path might be, and address drainage.

"These are only preliminary plans," Mayor Gerry Smith said.

Wren thought the money was better spent some other way, and criticized the council for the lack of sidewalks in town.

Heber also objected to having his speaking time limited to two minutes, which is practiced by other city councils to regulate time during a large gathering such as this.

Council Member Don Danford noted that everyone, except one person spoke longer than two minutes, and the council heard them all. Heber spoke three different times.

"You want to build a trail for people who don't exist yet," he told Smith.

Heber doubted Smith's willingness to build the trail on his own property, since Smith lives on the east side of the road, although Smith has mentioned a number of times he does not mind this idea.

"Build the sucker there," Heber said raising his voice to Smith, referring to having the trail across the road.

Smith banged his gavel and told him to stop.

When Heber finished speaking, he started to sit down.

Resident Mike Mitchell told him "That's not your land. It's right of way."

"It's my land," Heber said.

Mitchell noted how dangerous it is to walk along County Road 7, and welcomed the trail.

"Trucks practically blow you off the road," Mitchell said, saying he's walked that route many times before.

"There's not enough room to walk on County Road 7," Mitchell said. He noted that Imhoff is narrow. Mitchell suggested curb and gutter to keep the cars where they belong, instead of too close to walkers and bikers.

A speed study to change the posted speed limit may actually increase the speed limit along Wright County Road 7, DeWolf said. This is because it is a county road governed by the commissioner of public safety, he said.

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