After receiving neighborhood opposition, Jefferson City staff is reviewing alternative plans for extending the greenway trail along Tree Valley Lane, leading to some confusion on the Jefferson City Parks and Recreation Commission.
Last month, city staff said they were holding off on adding the final trail extension along Tree Valley Lane, previously part of Frog Hollow Road, after more than a dozen people spoke in opposition to the proposed greenway extension during a Feb. 21 open house.
City Engineer David Bange told the Parks and Recreation Commission on Tuesday city staff was now reviewing alternatives to the trail extension because they received dozens of correspondences from residents in support of the extension following the open house.
Jefferson City Parks and Recreation Commission was taken off-guard Tuesday when a Tree Valley Lane resident asked the commission for a status update on the project. Many commission members said they had not been aware of the project, even though it involved extending the greenway.
"None of us knew there was a discussion and a plan to build through that neighborhood," President Brad Bates said. "None of us on the commission was even aware that this was taking place."
City staff initially proposed an estimated $517,126 project where the extension would begin at the parking area in front of St. Mary's Urgent Care on West Edgewood Drive and run along Edgewood Drive to the west side of Tree Valley Lane, where it would extend along the western side of Tree Valley Lane to Cedarwood Drive. From there, the extension would have crossed the eastern side of Tree Valley Lane and run along a pedestrian bridge until it connects with the current greenway trail along Creek Trail Drive.
Resident Bill Ratliff, who lives on Tanglewood Drive near Tree Valley Lane, said many property owners were angry that the original proposal would tremendously impact residents' yards, adding two or three properties would have their driveways impacted and one home would have to install a retaining wall.
If the original trail had been installed, Ratliff said, it would have removed several trees from the street — including about six or eight from his property.
There were also concerns about homeowner liability and insurance if the city installed the greenway trail.
"Nobody wants this, none of the property owners, and we don't think it'll be used that much," he said. "We just don't see that there's a need for it. I don't know if it's worth the expense for the damage it's going to do to the properties. To take an area like this and tear into it is something we're not too happy about."
Other residents were worried about the project tearing down the trees and bringing strangers into the neighborhood.
Lack of privacy and cutting down the trees were large issues for resident Mike Michelson. He added he doesn't understand "the necessity of this segment."
"I grew up in Jefferson City, and I support 99 percent of all the projects. But this is one of those rare times where I just don't feel like this is a priority for a city, and I can't believe making everyone upset is worth it."
Since neighborhood residents have spoken in opposition to the project, Bates said, he did not understand why city staff was continuing to push for the greenway extension.
"The Edgewood extension has certainly been a great area, but with the neighbors' complaints, we're almost seeing that we've saturated the area and they're happy with what we've done," Bates said. " I think we're always responsive to what the citizens want because their money goes toward these things. If the neighbors are against it, why would we want to force it?"
Bates added the funding for this greenway trail extension could go toward other areas and parks that lack greenways. Ratliff suggested the funds go toward repairing the streets.
Following the open house, Bange said, the city received "an outpouring of comments from folks who are very interested in" seeing the completion of that greenway loop.
"Since we've had that public meeting, we've had an outpouring of comments from other folks who are very interested in seeing that connection made," Bange said. "I don't know if they have a particular opinion on where exactly that connection is made, but expressing that concern that they would like to see the rest of the Frog Hollow trail completed. So, we felt it was necessary to say, 'OK, if this path isn't viable because of the concerns of the neighborhood, then what path can we pursue?'"
Many residents who emailed city staff about the proposal said they thought the greenway would attract more trail users and visitors. It would also provide another mode of transportation, especially for those who do not own vehicles.
"If you can complete this extension, it will make the trail into a true jewel for the city and expand access, improve mental health, and keep the streets safer for bicyclists, runners and dog walkers," Tina Casagrand said in an email to city staff.
The city has also spent about $720,000 over the last six or seven years to create the Frog Hollow greenway loop so residents could avoid the hill on Missouri 179, Bange said Tuesday. He added "its full potential wouldn't be realized" if the connection is not made.
The trail is also part of the city's 2007 Greenway Master Plan.
"The idea of this loop has been both thought of and built to get to this final point," Bange told the News Tribune. "It seems at this point there's been a lot of thought and money invested in this loop, and to not complete it, we're losing out on all of that effort and money."
Alternative greenway proposals
One of the top alternatives the city is considering is running the trail along the east side of Tree Valley Lane, between the street and the creek, from Edgewood Drive to Creek Trail Drive. Bange said he thought this estimated $546,776 project would address neighborhood concerns but still complete the loop.
Being the cheapest option at $271,326, another proposal would include painting a line on Tree Valley Lane so pedestrians walk in the street. This option also includes traffic calming mechanisms such as speed humps and narrowing the lanes, Bange said.
An option proposed running the greenway extension along the west side of Creek Trail Drive, which would cost an estimated $769,656. Another option would run the greenway extension along the east side of Creek Trail Drive, which would cost an estimated $787,313.
Another option would be running the greenway extension along Wears Creek behind the Creek Trail Drive commercial properties. This is the most expensive option at more than $1.5 million.
Bange said city staff may present the alternatives to the commission as soon as April 9. The city does not plan on hosting an open house before the presentation, Bange said.
Bates said he plans on contacting the neighborhood residents to keep them updated on the status of that project. Michelson and Ratliff said they plan on attending the April meeting.
Since the city didn't speak with the Parks and Recreation Commission about the project first, Bates said, he did not believe funding for the project would come from the Parks department. However, Bange said city staff anticipated funding for the project to come from the Parks department since it involves a greenway trail.