Trail Route Still Unresolved
Even after asking that the proposed route of the Five Island Recreational Trail be flagged out to see, the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors still have reservations over the actual route of the trail, following a discussion Tuesday morning during the weekly board meeting. Members of the trail committee, as well as the opposition group filled the supervisors’ board room in the Palo Alto County Courthouse after the supervisors drove to the east side of Five Island Lake to view the proposed route first hand.
To begin the discussion, Board chair Ed Noonan told the group that, in his opinion, the staked out trail was still too close to the lake shore, addressing the gravel road area running south from the boat ramp to the dam and spillway at Gappa’s Point.
“I won’t accept it the way it is,” agreed Supervisor Jerry Hofstad.
“Neither will I,” added Supervisor Keith Wirtz.
“So you prefer to see it closer to the road,” FIT Committee member Steve Heldt said.
“How many times have we asked that?” Hofstad replied. “What to we gotta do? Use a sledgehammer? All we ask is that you move the road in between the lake and the trail – not the trail in between the road and the lake.”
“Personally, I’d like to see it on the other side of the road there,” Noonan added. “I don’t think there’s enough room there for a trail and a road.”
“I don’t either,” Hofstad added.
Trails Committee engineer Jim Thiesse addressed the possibility of perhaps making the gravel road one-way, but Hofstad and Wirtz both pointed out the amount of traffic and usage of the area by the boat ramp during the summer.
“The way that the thing is, it’s right smack in the middle of the road. It’s just not acceptable to me,” Hofstad said.
“I really think on the east side of the highway, then you’re not bothering anybody,” offered Tim Siemers, one of the affected landowners on the proposed route.
“I agree with the east side myself,” Wirtz spoke up. “That’d be my feelings.”
“Why is the trails committee so bent on being close to the lake?” Noonan asked.
“The natural beauty,” Heldt replied.
“Well, I didn’t see much compromise out there, or did I miss it?” Noonan said.
“I think the plan has changed as far as this was the premiere or the best one that they wanted to show you to begin with, so that’s how it started out and I agree with you, I didn’t see any compromise out there, either,” Heldt replied, “So I don’t disagree with your statement.”
“The compromise I think was already made in that area from a recreational trail to just a trail,” Thiesse said. “The ultimate plan for a trail project would be not to have a road squeezed in there with a trail. So the compromise is trying to facilitate both a road and a trail in that narrow corridor.”
“I think you missed on both,” Noonan said. “You don’t have either. You lose both.”
“Exactly,” Thiesse agreed. “You’re losing the functionality of both. There is another option, maybe you don’t pave through that corridor for a while, develop the other sections, and see what type of use you get through there.”
“That’s a very good idea,” Noonan replied.
“This thing is going to evolve over time,” Thiesse said. “Pick bits and pieces. You can still move people and vehicles on that gravel road and then your decision will be easier.”
Steve Hoyman of the FIT Committee noted that the trail routing was discussed at length, and that they had laid out a route they thought was best through the corridor.
“I’m not tied to the left side or the right side of that gravel road,” Hoyman said. “There was a lot of consideration. We didn’t just throw out a crappy trail and ignore everything you guys thought of.”
“I don’t consider myself a tree hugger, but looking at that trail, it looked to me like you are trying to stay as close to the lake as you could,” Noonan said to Hoyman.
“We’re trying to keep Gary’s road open,” Hoyman replied. “If you talk to an engineer, there first choice would be to close the road and we’re not interested in doing that.”
The discussion continued, and Hofstad asked what kind of time frame the committee was looking at.
“It’s driven by funding,” Thiesse said.
Hofstad suggested that in three years time, the county intends to build a bypass road east of N48 that would remove truck traffic off the stretch of roadway, and at that time, traffic would be less and perhaps more condusive to sharing the road.
However, County Engineer Joel Fantz noted that traffic speeds and levels would probably not decline, if a proposed residential development in the planning stages is constructed north of the area on the road.
“Well, you need to do something, but you need to quit taking our damn time,” Hofstad said. “we’ve got things to do here other than bicycle trail.”
“I agree,” Heldt spoke up.
“I would suggest you come back with a plan that’s acceptable and maybe we’ll proceed,” Hofstad said.
“When the whole group sets down and says we have a plan, the left side, the right side, everybody.” Wirtz added.
“I don’t think that’s acceptable,” Fantz said.
“We tried setting down with them and there’s no concessions,” Hoyman said. “We made a lot of concessions and they’re not willing to give any. If this is how we’re leaving here, I’m hearing that we’re done.”
“That’s what you just told us Jerry, we’re done,” Fantz said.
“No, that’s not what I heard,” Heldt spoke up.
“We’ve taken a lot of our time and I don’t appreciate that attitude at all,” Noonan snapped.
“I agree,” Hoyman interjected.
“You’re acting like little babies. ‘If we don’t get our way, we’re leaving.’I’m sick of it!” Noonan said. “I know how these landowners feel now if this is how you treated them.”
“Quite honestly, we just need to know if we’re done or not,” Fantz said. “We just need to know if we can’t go forward, we can’t go forward. I’m honestly in that position.”
“Joel, stop talking, please, stop talking.” Heldt interrupted.
“I apologize for that. I wish it would have been along the road where you wanted it, I’m sorry.” Heldt said to the board. “Like I said, that wasn’t the consensus. My question is, if we come back along the side of the road, use the county right-of-way, can we come back with a plan that’s more detailed at some point in time and try to get your approval?’
“I’m not saying you can’t be against the lake at some points,” Noonan said, “but it looked to me like you were against it whenever you could.“
“I understand that, and I’m not happy with that myself, Ed,” Heldt replied.
“It was just the exact opposite of what we asked for,” Hofstad added.
“I understand,” Heldt answered.
Noonan asked Thiesse, in his professional opinion, what kind of rating he would give the trail project.
“It has a lot of amenities, the availability of public property, but we have a huge political mess here,” Thiesse said. “Stepping back isn’t a bad idea, but I still think there’s a lot of potential for this trail. On a scale of one to 10, I’d call it a seven or eight.”