Broken Bow park board gets berated by citizens for more than two hours on Monday night at the town hall meeting regarding the trail master plan.
According to the plan document, the conceptual trail plan analyzes and recommends alignments and amenities for an interconnected bike/walk system within existing right-of-ways that the city owns. The big picture plan was put together by JEO Consulting Inc., the park board, and the Custer Economic Development Corporation (CEDC) leadership team to identify the best routes for a multi-use looping trail in and around the community and to connect many city’s amenities and facilities (according to plan).
An early plan is necessary to apply for future grant funding and at this time nothing has been approved.
A packed municipal auditorium with standing room only- was buzzing with opinions for and against this trail plan. Many residents expressed concerns about privacy invasion, costs, and unwanted proposed routes, while others liked the idea of providing a way to connect the town for recreation and for use of future generations.
JEO planning department manager Jeffrey Ray opened the meeting by explaining the trail master plan is in early stages and that engineering and environmental reviews have not yet been conducted. A 20-year comprehensive city plan began its latest evaluation in the fall of 2016. The guidance document is used to serve community needs. Through a series of focus groups and town hall meetings, Ray said that the findings consisted of a trail being a top priority for citizens and should be included in the comprehensive plan. This is what began the planning and fundraising processes by the CEDC leadership team and park board.
“I really don’t know what direction it’s going to go. It’s really going to depend on what the park board wants to do. They’re the advisory body to the city council, so that’s how it’s set up. They took all this public input in and it all will be considered,” Ray said.
Community opinions varied from a “build it and they will come” mentality to other citizens not wanting the trail outside of corporate limits, especially not on Myers Road. One consensus was that sidewalk and road improvements should take priority.
Park board chairman Lindsay Divan reminded everyone that the park board is responsible for maintaining parks and opportunities for healthy lifestyles. She and city administrator Brent Clark encouraged citizens to take road/sidewalk maintenance concerns to the city council.
Cost and location were the primary concerns expressed by people who opposed the trail plan. It is estimated that 90% of funding for the trail would come from grants, using as few local tax dollars as possible. However, citizens like Phyllis and Bill Bigbee felt there is no such thing as “free money” and were concerned with privacy invasion on their property.
“The proposed trail master plan might seem like progress if you like living in the city. For us, it invades our privacy and devalues our home,” she said.
A few community members took a moment to thank citizens for attending and thanked the park board and leadership team for moving forward with an idea. Leadership class member Kim Schipporeit understands the project carries a scary price tag but asked everyone to keep open minds. Many in attendance felt they did not know about the plan. However, previous town hall meetings were held on March 25 and April 10. “Never did we ever intend to do anything behind anybody’s back. So I just want you to know that was never ever the intention,” Schipporeit said.
The plan currently outlines six separate phases that would be completed over many years. The current estimated cost sits at around $10 million but will be reviewed many more times before coming to the park board again.
Josh “Buddy” Miller felt other community needs take priority over a trail but acknowledges that down the road a trail could be a delightful addition to the community. “I just feel that there are other needs in the community to take care of our own rather than a bike trail at this point in time,” he said.
Many others stood up to say that improvements definitely need to be made to ensure safe recreational activities, but for the time being, “more has been bit off than we can chew,” as one resident stated.
Jeffrey Ray reiterated that the plan is an outline for steps to be taken one at a time, but that an overall look first needed to be addressed for any type of trail.