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Trail connection plan left on table again

An option to connect the Cielo Grande and Spring River Corridor biking and walking paths using an alleyway just to the east of the Nancy Lopez Golf Course at Spring River is back under consideration, even though most homeowners, including Richard Hesse, seen in June 2020, contest the idea. A variation of the idea would create a new connecting pathway inside the city-owned golf course property. (Daily Record File Photo)

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A debate over how to connect the Cielo Grande area walking and biking trails to the Spring River Recreation Trail has been tabled by city elected officials again.

Three members of the Roswell City Council General Services Committee — Jeanine Corn Best, Angela Moore and Barry Foster — voted Wednesday to postpone a decision so that city staff can provide additional information about a variation of an idea that citizen groups had decided wasn’t practical due to homeowners’ opposition.

Enough members of the General Services Committee considered the abandoned idea and a variation of that idea worthy of consideration that they decided to hold off on a decision until city employees provide additional information and the members of the City of Roswell Parks and Recreation Commission once again review all the options.

Discussions about how to connect the two trails have been occurring for about four years now, with members of the Spring River Corridor Foundation and the City of Roswell Parks and Recreation Commission often encouraging city councilors to make a decision. Foundation members have indicated they are willing to pledge up to $20,000 for the project, but they also said that they cannot commit funds indefinitely.

Just days before the General Services Committee meeting, on June 21, members of the Parks and Recreation Commission voted to recommend the first of four options presented by city staff.

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That option would connect the trails by extending the existing Cielo Grande trail at its southwest point along the former airport runway path. The path then would continue west, parallel to West Eighth Street, until it reached Sycamore Avenue. It would then cross Sycamore to connect up to the Spring River Trail as it exits the J. Kenneth Smith Bird Sanctuary and Nature Center.

Members of the commission and the foundation said on Wednesday that they had favored that option because a number of homeowners had protested against the original preferred option, what was called Option 3, at the meeting. That option connects the trails by paving a walking and biking path through an alleyway just to the east of the Nancy Lopez Golf Course at Spring River. City staff previously had estimated that would cost about $57,000, according to foundation members.

A few homeowners who use the alley for recreational vehicle parking and other uses have said they have hired lawyers to fight such action.

But city councilors questioned the Sycamore Avenue option because of its costs, the heavy vehicular traffic along West Eighth Street, the need to build a drainage bridge and the fact that a church would have to grant the city access to its property to complete the connection.

Option 2, similar to the Sycamore Avenue option, would create a path from the former runway but would cut across West Eighth Street to the east of Sycamore Avenue near a golf course trail. Councilors also expressed concern about traffic for that option.

Option 4 would build new sidewalks along North Montana Avenue connecting the southeast corner of Cielo Grande with the northern part of Cahoon Park. Traffic concerns, the need to obtain rights-of-way, and homeowner objections were cited as reasons against that option.

City Councilor Jeanine Best said that opposition from some residents about the alleyway option should not be the reason to abandon that idea, which she also described as much safer than the West Eighth Street routes.

“I don’t mind a little bit of a court battle,” she said.

Best also recommended a variation of that option, which would create the new connecting path inside the city-owned golf course property. She asked city staff to calculate cost estimates for that option.

When the trail connection options might be reconsidered by the commission or city councilors was not specified.

The Roswell City Council Infrastructure Committee is due to consider on Monday an application for a competitive award for the 2022-23 fiscal year to the New Mexico Department of Transportation for the Cielo Grande-Spring River trails connection project. Under that application, the city would supply $32,760 and the Transportation Program would provide $192,240.

Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.