GEORGE KENNEDY: Dudley trying to calm conflict between bicyclists, birders

Thursday, June 16, 2011 | 5:07 p.m. CDT; updated 3:53 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, June 21, 2011
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Fourth Ward Councilman Daryl Dudley has called a series of stakeholder meetings to discuss the best route for a section of the Scott's Branch Trail near Bonnie View Park and property owned by the Audubon Society. The city has proposed two alternatives and Audubon has suggested a third option. The meetings are scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday and at 6 p.m. June 15 and 22.

*The Audubon Society Nature Sanctuary is deeded to the Audubon Society. A previous version of this column incorrectly stated to which group the land was deeded.

Wednesday was such a nice day that I decided to walk the battlefield. No, not the Boonville battlefield where the opening skirmish of the Civil War will be re-enacted this weekend. I wanted to tread the territory that has triggered such fierce conflict between two modern groups that are natural allies most of the time – Columbia’s bicyclists and birders.

As you’ve probably read, the issue is whether to extend the planned Scott’s Branch Trail, which eventually will connect Bonnie View Park with the MKT Nature and Fitness Trail, across the southern edge of the Audubon Society Nature Sanctuary. The PedNet Coalition – the bicyclists and hikers – insists that’s the best route. The birders – the Audubon Society – say with equal fervor, no.

(I’m neither a bicyclist nor a birder. I do have a bike rotting its tires in my garage, and I did pay Audubon dues for one year so I could get the magazine. But when I’m outdoors, I’m usually on foot, watching for snakes and poison ivy. This issue has me conflicted.)

My wandering Wednesday convinced me that it’s a fine nature sanctuary, though not exactly the forever pristine wilderness some of the more vociferous Auduboners suggest. In fact, it’s an abandoned farm with a fine stand of fescue along the southern border. I pleasurably followed the winding path through deep woods and along the creek bank, listening to the cicadas and birds I couldn’t identify. I was alone. It felt far distant from the bustle of Hy-Vee and Walmart, just a few blocks away. That’s well worth preserving, surely.

Then I walked down Cunningham Street to Chapel Hill, the route the birders would prefer for the new trail. That was also a pleasant stroll, until I reached busy Chapel Hill, with its fading “sharrows” and narrow sidewalks. I wouldn’t have wanted my kids biking there. In fact, to make that route work safely, a new eight-foot-wide pedway would have to be constructed to lead to Scott Boulevard. There are no plans and no money for that in the city budget.

On the third hand, a trail through the sanctuary would lead into Dublin Park, where a primitive path now follows the creek through lowland subject to flooding. So an elevated boardwalk would probably be required, along with switchbacks down the steep slope on the sanctuary property.

It’s complicated, and I admire my councilman, Daryl Dudley, for working so hard to reach a solution before the Columbia City Council takes up the issue at its July 18 meeting. He convened a second public conversation Wednesday evening. I went to that, too.

Advocates on both sides replayed their arguments. For a minute, I thought compromise was in sight when Professor Howard Hinkel, the Columbia Audubon Society president, rose to say his group is working with city staff on a possible route that would cut across just the southeast corner of the sanctuary to bring the new trail from Bonnie View Park to the sanctuary entrance at Cunningham. It wasn’t going to be that simple.

Karl Kruse, former councilman, longtime environmentalist and current chairman of the PedNet Coalition, responded that his board still wants the trail to run across the sanctuary to connect with Dublin Park. Even when he’s being stubborn, Karl always sounds like the voice of reason. “It’s a very insignificant piece of land” at issue, he offered.

Wrong, and not only wrong but threatening to the very nature of the sanctuary, including its newly fledged bluebirds, responded the Audubon contingent, who made up most of the 40 or so in attendance at the Activity and Recreation Center.

Councilman Dudley offered some placating words: No bike riding, no dogs and no hard surface on any part of any trail through the sanctuary, he pledged. Not good enough.

Karl noted, quietly, that the deed granting the sanctuary land to the *Audubon Society specifies that it not be developed but allows for pedestrian and bicycle trails. Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hood, who spent the session standing in the back, mainly looking bemused, confirmed to me afterward that Karl’s statement was accurate.

Mike told me that his department is ready to start building the trail from Rollins Road in the north end of Bonnie View Park. What’s unknown is whether it will just run straight south and connect with Weaver Street, turn west to Cunningham or continue on to Dublin Park.

I have no idea what the City Council will decide, or even what Daryl Dudley will recommend. I left the meeting confident of just one thing, that Karl’s summary was correct.

“Everyone feels passionate about this, and we should,” he said. “We all love Columbia.”

George Kennedy is a former managing editor at the Missourian and professor emeritus at the Missouri School of Journalism.

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Paul Allaire June 16, 2011 | 7:20 p.m.

I really appreciate that someone took the time to provide the interactive map so that everybody could attempt to visualize what people have been talking about.

Now that I have, I can conclusively say that the Audubon plan and the first city alternative ARE COMPLETELY WORTHLESS. I refuse to bicycle on a sidewalk that runs through a residential neighborhood and any cyclist who has ridden any appreciable distance on any bicycle should be easily able to understand why. If those were the only two options available I would refuse them both. I don't care how wide somebody made the sidewalk. Riding on a sidewalk that is intersected with driveways is one of the most dangerous things a cyclist can do and the last thing we need to be doing is teaching young cyclists that this is an acceptable behavior. To exercise either of those options is a severe disservice to the cycling community and to the city as a whole.

I would rather have the money set aside somewhere until someone can use it to build AN ACTUAL TRAIL. The Audubon Society telling me that I can ride on a sidewalk and it is almost as good is the equivalent of me telling them that they can view stuffed birds in a museum and visit the zoo in St. Louis.

I also appreciate that you noted that Karl Kruse noted that the the deed GRANTING THE SANCTUARY LAND TO THE CITY specifies that it allows for bicycle trails. Why does Mr. Dudley need to placate anybody? The money they are spending was intended to be used to facilitate people transporting themselves on BICYCLES. The land in question was donated to the city with a deed restriction allowing for BICYCLES.

(Report Comment)
Kevin Petersen June 17, 2011 | 8:09 a.m.

The Audubon property was donated to the Columbia Audubon Society and Bonnie View Park was donated to the city. However, both deed restrictions allows for bicycle trails. That said, Audubon has private property - it is not the city's.

(Report Comment)
Dave Overfelt June 17, 2011 | 8:19 a.m.

Dang man. You seem AWFULLY SERIOUS with your caps. I worked at Cherry Hill for several years. I rode my bike from downtown to work everyday I could. Not only is Chapel Hill wide enough that passing cars will give you 5 ft of space every time, every single road in the area of Bray and Cunningham is so low traffic that in riding through the neighborhood I rarely encountered more than one car. And sorry bud, if you are riding a bike, you will have to pass driveways everywhere you go unless you drive your bike to the trailhead. I mean seriously, you would think that Bray was the LA freeway by the way you talk about riding down it. I would also note that the cyclists I saw out that way didn't seem to have any problems riding on Chapel Hill... these roads aren't scary and they are likely far less dangerous than riding your bike downtown. We don't have many spaces around town that we can use for outdoor education on native Missouri species, as a cyclist, I am happy to make a small small sacrifice, and ride around the thing.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire June 17, 2011 | 9:39 a.m.

So then lets be REALLY REALLY STUPID and go ahead and waste all the money the government gave to Pednet on making an eight foot wide sidewalk that nobody is going to use for biking because it is easier and safer and faster to just ride in the street - the same as I always do ANYWAY.

Let's not build any trails. Let's build some sidewalks where we already have sidewalks.

Brilliant accomplishment.

Maybe we can paint some more "sharrows" at some convoluted intersection where they can be really sure to confuse the motorists. That shouldn't be too hard.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz June 17, 2011 | 10:03 a.m.

There may be a deed restriction allowing for trails, but that doesn't seem to be the same as granting an easement, which seems to be Kruse's opinion based on Kennedy's rememberance of the meeting. This is still the Audobon Society's private land, not PedNet's or the city's. Leave it alone.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire June 17, 2011 | 10:09 a.m.

John, does the Audubon Society pay tax on that land or are they tax exempt?

(Report Comment)
John Schultz June 17, 2011 | 10:59 a.m.

I don't know to be honest, I assume it would be dependent on if they're a registered non-profit. I tried searching for them on the county collector's website, but couldn't find anything under a couple different searches.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire June 17, 2011 | 11:11 a.m.

Let's make a fourth option and call it number zero. End the thing at Bray and Cunningham. Or end it at the unnamed street, (Weaver Drive), that is the first one to the right of Cunningham, right where the undisputed portion of the trail ends.

Save the money for where it can be used to build AN ACTUAL TRAIL. I'm actually a little more upset about this stupidity than it sounds.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire June 17, 2011 | 12:44 p.m.

I just checked. The Audubon property is tax exempt. For those of you who haven't thought about this for a while, I will explain what that means.

It means that you either pay your taxes or you pay your landlord's taxes so that the Audubon Society doesn't have to! And what do you get in return for your subsidization? It appears that you get as little as they can give. God bless the Audubon Society AND NOONE ELSE.

I know that birds would never nest in this fair city were it not for that pristine bit of wilderness that was given so graciously to the Audubon Society. They would not choose to nest in the adjacent park and most certainly not in any neighboring or nearby backyards.

I know that a thirty foot right of way along the edge of the property containing an eight foot wide trail would permanently spoil the habitat for the birds that choose to reside there. How do I know this? I was in my friend's back yard talking with the several species of birds that were congregating at his feeders and eating his garden. They told me.

I also learned from a city official that it is not the Pednet money that is going to this trail. It is the City's parks and recreation money and it is said to have been voted on several years ago. I suppose I should follow the local politics more closely, but then again, probably not, since I am preparing to go join Don Milsop, who still refuses to tell me which one of the several islands he chose to reside on.

And for what it is worth, I just read the paper in Jefferson City for maybe the first time. If you think we're stupid over here you haven't seen anything...

(Report Comment)
Robert Johnson June 17, 2011 | 12:54 p.m.


PedNet is a 501 C 3 non-profit organization founded back in the year 2000.

GetAbout Columbia is a City of Columbia public works project that was formed to use the 22 million dollar Federal grant that the City received as a part of the 2005 Federal Transportation Bill known.

PedNet is not building this trail, nor has ever built any trail or sidewalk in Columbia. PedNet certainly advocates for things like sidewalks, trails, etc but does not make any decisions regarding building them.

For a while, PedNet was working as a subcontractor to the City doing things like bicycle education courses, etc. Today that relationship is over (simply the end of the project) and PedNet is once again running programs like bicycle education courses, the Walking School Bus program and others entirely with grant money separate from the City of Columbia.

I hope that clears things up. I think you had the two mixed up, as most people do.

It’s doubtful that I reply to anything else written in these comments, so if anyone writes something inflammatory and I do not respond, it’s not because I’m agreeing or disagreeing with them.


(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire June 17, 2011 | 12:58 p.m.

Upon further thought, if the city were to exercise the option of building the trail on the edge of the property and then prohibit what is welcome on the remainder of the trail, that is also unacceptable.

None of the options are acceptable as it stands.

Also, since that map has been provided I have refreshed my memory of the terrain. The talk I have read of needing "switchbacks" is the talk of somebody lying again, as usual. There is no slope on the southern edge of that land nearly steep enough to require anything of the sort.

People who initiate and then perpetuate such self serving falsehoods have served to raise my level of contempt for Columbians to the point that I am starting to no longer care what you get. I almost want to hope for the worst.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz June 17, 2011 | 1:18 p.m.

The tax-exempt status doesn't matter one bit. Should I be able to put a trail through Woodcrest's or The Crossing's or the Central Missouri Humane Society's property, just because they are tax-exempt organizations? No, I don't believe so.

As for the switchback comments, I believe that was in reference to one of the earlier paths that would have gone through the heart of the Audobon property.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire June 17, 2011 | 7:29 p.m.

I'm sorry John, but you can understanding someone wanting to play on any confusion that they can. Utilities and municipalities generally condemn easements for roadways utilities. I know that you, as a libertarian would prefer for the government not to concern itself with things such as roadways, preferring instead that each individual be able to find their own building materials, grow their own meat and vegetables, and provide their own utilities without ever leaving their property and risking degrading surrounding properties by your passage. But most people prefer that the government at one time allowed for the condemnation of the land necessary to provide them with their running water and electricity and natural gas. Sometimes this is a cooperative thing or a trade and some times it is through eminent domain. The property owner is to be compensated. I cannot believe that a nature trail on a thirty foot easement on one edge of the property that is already bordered by residences is going to make one bit of difference to the remainder of the sanctuary.

The longer the network of contiguous trails that can be connected with the least amount of interruption equals a sum that is infinitely more valuable than the individual parts. And unfortunately a lot of people cannot realize what a thing that they might have.

So therefore we won't have anything. We will waste the entire 22 million dollars on salaries, staff, rent, "planning", publicity, signs, paint, "sharrows" and tee shirts. Way to go Columbians. It takes each one of you to do your part to screw up something as good as what is on the plate.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz June 17, 2011 | 8:24 p.m.

I don't have a problem with the government providing some basic services, such as roads. I think bike trails are taking it a bit far, especially when someone's or some group's private property is seized for the benefit of someone else. I guess I see it a bit differently than some citizens of Columbia since my government doesn't provide me with my utilities (the county sewer district might be considered a government entity to some degree) or pick up my trash. Can you imagine what Ray Beck must think, that a common man such as myself, is left to determine which private trash hauler I wish to contract with?

As an aside, I don't think everyone should be required to grow their own meats and vegetables when there are entrepreneurs out there more than willing to do the work in exchange for little green pieces of paper that you hand them, and which they buy more items to make food from.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire June 18, 2011 | 4:06 p.m.

You know someone in the city might get a bright idea and make a move to cede the stupid bird society a little more land out of the park than what they are taking for the trail. They are right * next to each other. Do you think the * birds know which trees are in the * park and which ones are in the * society property?

(Report Comment)
John Schultz June 18, 2011 | 8:26 p.m.

I think that may be the best solution anyone has proposed...

(Report Comment)
George Kennedy June 20, 2011 | 3:31 p.m.

Belatedly, two responses:

First and most important, I inadvertently wrote a mistake into the original column. I refer to the deed granting "sanctuary land to the city." Of course, that deed granted the land in question to the Audubon Society. Careless error. My apologies.

As to the switchback issue, that would arise only on the southwest corner of the Audubon property, if the trail runs that way. It's a fairly steep, wooded slope down to Dublin Park. I hope that clarifies.

Thanks for reading and for reacting.

(Report Comment)
Nicholas Quijas June 21, 2011 | 9:51 a.m.

I'm going to stay out of the majority of this argument, but wanted to clarify one argument that Paul made early on here. He mentioned that it is very dangerous riding on the sidwalk in a residential area because of driveways, something that was argued as slightly ridiculous and overexaggerated by a later commenter.

I actualy understand what Paul is talking about with this argument. I've found that riding on sidwalks when there are driveways can be extremely dangerous and/or frustrating. When i first started biking in Columbia I stuck to the sidewalks in areas where I could because I thought it would be safer for an inexperienced biker. However, I quickly found that this is not the case. I found that drivers often don't pay attention to who is on the sidewalk when they are turning off of a street onto a driveway, be it for a house or a business. Imagine what happens when you are riding down a hill on a bike and a driver turns into a driveway 5-10 ft in front of you. I can tell you that it will really make you understand the old cliche about your life flashing before your eyes.

As a further point on this, in residential areas sidwalks can be worthless for bikers, as people park their cars in their driveways in wayd that block the sidewalk. I'm not complaining about them doing this, as it's their driveway. However, while you may be able to easily walk around cars parked like this, when you are on a bike it is not so easy to manuveur around every car.

My point is, sidewalks don't neccesarily equate to bikers haveing acceptable means of getting through an area. There can be just as many complications for somebody on a bike on the sidewalk as there can be for a driver having to go around a biker in the street.

(Report Comment)

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