COLUMBIA — “Safety” became the operative word at Wednesday night's discussion on the rerouting of the proposed Scott’s Branch Trail.
The Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission discussed whether the trail should be routed through a residential neighborhood or multiple nature areas.
The trail, which will begin at Rollins Road in the Bonnie View Nature Sanctuary, is set to run along the eastern side of the sanctuary before connecting with the Weaver Road stub at the southern end of the sanctuary.
At the City Council meeting March 21, the Parks and Recreation Commission recommended the trail follow along the sidewalks of Weaver, Bray and Dublin roads. This route would also comply with the Columbia Audubon Society’s desire to prohibit all bicycle use on the Audubon Property adjacent to the sanctuary.
The council, finding this suggestion to be unsafe because of the 33 driveways and five intersections the trail would cross, requested an alternative recommendation.
The Parks Board then proposed an alternative route that would bring the trail down the eastern side of the sanctuary, then travel along the southern side of both the sanctuary and the Audubon Property. The trail would continue through the adjacent Dublin Park.
There has been support for the alternate route because of its potential use as a walking trail to Fairview Elementary School and its lack of involvement with motor traffic.
“There are significant dangers for bicyclists and pedestrians in areas where driveways and intersections are located,” Ian Thomas, executive director of PedNet, said.
Janet Godon, a member of the Fairview PTA Wellness Committee, said it is dangerous for Fairview students to walk to school. She said she believes the nature trail would allow safe transportation for students to the elementary school.
Jerry Wade, a neighborhood resident involved in the planning of both the sanctuary and the Audubon property since 2002, opposed the alternate route, however. He said he believes a trail going through multiple nature areas would be the least safe route for pedestrians.
“Safety has been offered as the big reason to use the Audubon property and Dublin Park,” Wade said. “I don’t believe that is a valid argument. There are no eyes on the entire route.”
The committee went on to address whether the donor of the land, the Russell family, stated in the deed whether bicycle use was desired. The deeds for the Bonnie View and Audubon properties, nearly identically worded, stated bicycles could be permitted but did not demand bike privileges.
The Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission, along with the Parks Commission and the Disabilities Commission, will announce its recommendation for the trail route at the council meeting on May 16.