COLUMBIA — Daryl Dudley is trying one last time to reach an agreement on the Scott's Branch Trail route.
The city will host the first of three meetings to discuss the route at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Activity and Recreation Center.
The goal is to bring the interested parties to the table to see whether they can compromise before it goes in front of the Columbia City Council again on July 18, Dudley, the Fourth Ward's city councilman, said.
The council already has approved two sections of the trail: one that would run along the east side of Bonnie View Park and another that extends from Dublin Park to Scott Boulevard. The question is how to connect those sections.
“The goal is to link the neighborhoods in and around the Fairview school district and the Bonnie View area to the existing MKT Trail and future Perche Creek Trail,” Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hood said.
City staff originally recommended a route extending west from the stub of Weaver Drive and along Dublin Avenue to Dublin Park. When Dublin Avenue residents complained about safety, the council requested an alternate route. The staff then suggested a trail along the southern edge of Bonnie View Park and an adjacent property owned by the Audubon Society. That route would avoid neighborhood streets, Hood said.
Audubon members, however, don't want the path through their property, saying the trail and its bicycle traffic would be a detriment to their land and to the Bonnie View property. Together, they argue, the Bonnie View and Audubon tracts present an unprecedented opportunity for the city to have an educational nature sanctuary, Edge Wade, Audubon member and neighborhood resident since 1982, said.
"Proponents of the trail have consistently said 'let’s compromise,' and we say by all means," Wade said, "but the definition of compromise varies. They say, ‘let this trail go through your land, and we’ll do whatever it takes to make it appropriate.’ We say no trail would be appropriate."
F. Garland Russell donated the 90-acre Bonnie View land to the city in 1999. His son, Garland Russell, donated the 22-acre tract to the Audubon Society in 2000. Both hoped to see little development on the land.
The deed for the land allows for hiking and biking trails and picnic areas, but does not require them. The donors imposed limitations to keep the land as natural as possible, Wade said.
Audubon members, who have emphasized that they will neither donate nor sell land for a trail, are concerned the city might use its power of eminent domain. Dudley, however, said he has no intention of using eminent domain.
The Audubon Society has proposed an alternate route that would follow streets but pass fewer driveways and be more central to the neighborhood, Wade said. It would run south on Scott Boulevard, east on Chapel Hill Road, north on Cunningham Road and east on Bray Avenue.
The project will be funded by the 2005 park sales tax, but Hood said he doesn't think that money can be used for road or sidewalk improvements. It could be used for a pedway if it is part of the overall park system.
The meetings are scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday and on June 15 and June 22.