The MKT is safe.
The nonmotorized transportation project’s trails subcommittee struck down a proposal to pave the MKT nature trail at its monthly meeting Tuesday, after deciding the controversy around the project was obscuring the larger goals of the $21 million federal grant program.
The decision doesn’t eliminate the possibility that some portion of Columbia’s existing nature trail network could be paved. In fact, in a separate proposal, the committee recommended a demonstration project on one of the city’s other trails to show how parallel trails, one paved and one gravel, would work. The particular trail used for the demonstration will be decided by the committee after further analysis.
After public outcry in response to the original proposal, Mayor Darwin Hindman said a compromise could be reached in which the city would pave only the portion of the MKT Trail from Stadium Boulevard into the city. The committee’s recommendation to not pave any section of the trail seems to go a step further.
At least 10 concerned citizens attended the meeting to protect the MKT Trail.
“I feel like you’re taking something away from us,” said Libby Gill, addressing the members of the committee.
Gill added that she felt the PedNet Project — the short name for the non-motorized pilot project — has a good overall plan for the city, but said any insistence by the committee to pave the city’s nature trail would hinder the project as a whole.
The concerned residents let out an audible sigh of relief when Ted Curtis, the project manager, and Jay Lindner, co-chair of the trails committee, announced the recommendation to leave the MKT trail unpaved.
The committee also recommended that some hard surface be the default surfacing for all future trails constructed or expanded by the Pednet Project.
Lindner said the committee’s recommendation to pave new trails constructed under the program would comply with guidelines set forth by the federal grant. The grant was designed to finance improvements to non-motorized transportation in the city and specified that all new trails should serve as commuter trails rather than nature trails.
Also during Tuesday’s meeting, Curtis presented an updated draft map that he will send to the Pednet Project’s executive committee for approval Monday. If approved by the committee, the plan will then be subject to approval by the City Council. The city map uses different colors to highlight the committee’s various bike and pedestrian-friendly routes that the committee says could be completed by the grant’s 2010 deadline.
The plan includes a possible extension of Hinkson Creek Trail to accommodate neighborhoods east of U.S. 63 as well as an extensive system of bike lanes along city streets.
Curtis said he expects to stripe the bike lanes first because the city already has the right-of-way on roads, meaning it already owns the land and therefore can move forward with that project as soon as it’s approved.
“The bike paths can be finished within two years,” Curtis said.
Curtis also announced that a series of public hearings to discuss the city’s trails and the paving proposals will be held on Dec. 5 and 14. Details on time and place will be decided at the project’s executive committee meeting on Monday.