East Central residents sent a strong message to City Hall on Tuesday evening: They want the Ben Burr Trail, south of Liberty Park, left as it is.
The city recently proposed using a $1.7 million federal transportation grant to pave, widen and place guardrails along a section of the Ben Burr Trail, beginning at East Hills Court and ending at Liberty Park, a plan that met with much criticism Tuesday.
Jerry Numbers, head of the East Central Neighborhood Council, said the neighborhood originally intended for some trail improvements but never wanted it both widened and paved.
“We didn’t want to become a transportation corridor,” Numbers said.
The first plan for rehabilitating the Ben Burr Trail and connecting it to the Centennial Trail was approved by the neighborhood in 1986, and re-evaluated several times, including at a meeting in 2009.
“At that time there was some talk about paving the trail,” Numbers said. Some of today’s neighborhood volunteers were present at that meeting. “This is just not what we intended,” Numbers said.
City senior design engineer Dan Buller repeated a presentation he gave at the October neighborhood council meeting, explaining that a federally funded Ben Burr Trail would have to be paved and 10 feet wide, with a 2-foot shoulder on each side, and guardrails where there are steep drop-offs.
“Yes, we can just send the check back,” Buller said, answering a question from the audience, “but this type of funding rarely becomes available.”
Neighbors said they don’t want the trail paved because they fear bicyclists – or people illegally riding dirt bikes – will go too fast and be a danger to walkers. They don’t want any mature trees taken down and they’d prefer the trail remain as it is.
The Tuesday meeting was a regular neighborhood council meeting. After 90 minutes of presentations and questions and answers by Buller and other city staff, Numbers asked for a show of hands to indicate how the neighborhood feels about the trail.
Fewer than 10 people were in support of the city’s proposal, and what appeared to be more than 20 want the trail left the way it is.
The project is on hold for now, Buller said.
Buller handed out comment cards and encouraged everyone to fill them out or to send emails with comments to email@example.com.