COLUMBIA — Dublin Avenue gently snakes off Bray Avenue and slopes downhill for a quarter-mile, ending at a patch of rocks intended to collect water run-off next to Dublin Park.
Jim Smith’s house is near the bottom of the street, but his backyard descends into dense woods. Hidden from view behind the trees is the gravel Dublin Park Trail.
"Most days you see people in the park," Smith said. "A few people walk the trail, but most are using the playground."
The trail might soon see increased traffic.
The city is considering a plan that would connect the Scott’s Branch Trail with the Dublin Park Trail by going through property owned by the Audubon Society. Another plan would avoid Audubon property by running the trail down Dublin Avenue to Dublin Park.
In a meeting organized by Fourth Ward Councilman Daryl Dudley last Wednesday, stakeholders met to discuss the proposed route of Scott’s Branch Trail.
"The meeting went the way I wanted it to," Dudley said. "It got all of the opinions out in the open."
At issue for stakeholders is how to connect a trail along the east side of Bonnie View Park to the Scott Boulevard Pedway and, in turn, the MKT Trail. Trail advocates, Audubon members and Dublin Avenue neighbors have been unable to reach an agreement on an acceptable route.
Smith was at last week's meeting but said he is unsure whether he will attend the next one, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Activity and Recreation Center, 1701 W. Ash St.
"I don’t see the point of either plan," Smith said. "At the meeting, someone proposed using the streets informally to get to the trail, and I like that."
Smith was referring to a third suggestion made by the Audubon Society that the trail be routed along Scott Boulevard, Chapel Hill Road and Cunningham Road.
Smith said the Dublin Avenue route would be dangerous because it's on a steep hill and because it would bring increased bicycle traffic to a street with many driveways.
At the meeting last week, Dudley noted the same issue. He said if a trail went through the Audubon property, it would require multiple switchbacks or a boardwalk eight feet off the ground.
"A heavy rain washed out part of the Dublin Trail once, and it was out for close to a year," Smith said.
Smith said he favors the Audubon Society's plan of using streets to connect the trails, but he would advise against declaring a designated route.
By leaving it to bicyclists and pedestrians to choose their own route, he said, the pedestrian traffic can be distributed throughout the neighborhood rather than down a single street.
Dudley agrees with that idea in principle but hasn't committed yet to proposing anything. However, he did say that the meeting helped him adjust some of his assumptions.
"For instance, marking streets causes a single route, but various routes would be able to spread the load," Dudley said.
The meeting on Wednesday is expected to allow more dialogue, Dudley said. Although a third meeting is tentatively scheduled for June 22, Dudley expects the second meeting will be the last. He doesn't know whether a solution can be reached that will please everyone.
"Each side feels they have been compromising,” Dudley said. “I believe we as a council will have to make the decision."