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City council rejects trail connection plan

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Juno Ogle Photo Rebecca Healy, right, tells the Roswell City Council that designating a portion of Mississippi Avenue near her home as a no-parking zone to create a pedestrian and bike path would leave no safe space for her to park her truck and trailers for agricultural equipment at Thursday's City Council meeting as Sandra Whitlow waits her turn to speak.

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Mississippi Avenue didn’t prove to be the easy street to connecting two of the city’s trail systems after residents spoke against the proposal at Thursday night’s Roswell City Council meeting.

A resolution to designate the west curb of the 500 to 700 blocks of Mississippi Avenue as a no-parking zone to allow for a pedestrian and bike trail failed to pass at the council’s regular meeting by a vote of 4-5.

Voting in favor of the resolution were Councilors Juan Oropesa, Daniel Lopez, Jeanine Best and Barry Foster. Voting against it were Councilors Jacob Roebuck, Judy Stubbs, Savino Sanchez, Margaret Kennard and Jason Perry. Councilor Angela Moore had left the meeting.

Designating the no-parking zone would have been the next step in connecting the Spring River Trail and the trail at Cielo Grande Recreation Area, something the city and the Spring River Corridor Foundation have been trying to accomplish for about six years. The council approved the proposal to use Mississippi as a connection at its September meeting, but without the no-parking designation, the plan is dead, City Engineer Louis Najar said Monday.

Ivan Hall, president of the foundation, said Monday the organization had voted last month to donate $7,500 toward the $58,000 project. He said the board had not yet discussed the latest development.

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Six residents who live on or near those blocks of Mississippi spoke at Thursday night’s meeting. Several expressed concerns about losing parking.

Rebecca Healy said she often brings home trailers for agricultural equipment, off-road vehicles or horses.

“The west side of Mississippi Avenue in the 700 block along my property is the only reasonable place to park these large trucks and trailers. Parking on the east side of the street would obstruct view of the stop sign,” she said.

Healy also said pedestrians often cut through her property and that residents have had cars broken into or vandalized. She said she was concerned a trail connection would increase such activity.

In response, Best said that if the trail connection were made, Healy would probably find just the opposite. Best said her father opposed the Spring River Trail, which is just across the street from her family home that she’s lived in for 59 years.

“It has been safer on that corner in the years that bike path and walking path have been there because there’s people there watching,” she said.

Roebuck said anyone who intends to commit a crime is going to do so whether or not a trail exists.

Many of the speakers encouraged the council to consider using Montana Avenue as a connection.

“North Montana makes the most sense for a bike lane as there is already an access point to Cielo Grande on the corner of North Montana and West Eighth. North Montana might be slightly more traveled but Mississippi is still a fairly busy side street,” Sandra Whitlow said.

Whitlow said family and friends use Mississippi for parking, especially for overnight visits, as Eighth Street does not have adequate lighting.

“There have been accidents on my very block of drivers hitting parked cars at night,” she said.

Others suggested using the alley between Wyoming Avenue and the Nancy Lopez Golf Course at Spring River.

“I think that alley is a much better alternative,” Bob Phillips said. “I walk that same area every day and either Montana or the alley that adjoins the golf course to me seems like a much more superior option and less troublesome to most people in the neighborhood.”

Both options are among the most recent of the seven options that have been discussed and rejected by the city. Residents on the Wyoming alley objected to its use over concerns of loss of privacy and vehicle access to their property.

Montana was ruled out because it is a more narrow and more heavily traveled street that lacks curb and gutter on the route, Foster and Najar said.

Najar said theoretically, the city does not have to provide a designated connection to the trails because people and cyclists have the right to share the road with vehicles.

“The idea of a trail connection, what we’re proposing, is to make it safer for the pedestrian,” he said.

Councilors said no matter what option is chosen, there will be people who are against it. Foster encouraged his fellow councilors to approve the Mississippi option anyway.

“I’ve sat for many hours on this discussion, and this is the most simplistic and it works. No matter what we do, there’s going to be somebody that’s put out. I apologize to the people here. I can sympathize with you, but it’s our job also to make safe pathways. … people have wanted to connect these two trails for years and that’s what we need to do,” he said.

Kennard advocated for an alternative to the Wyoming alley that was suggested earlier this year — creating a path adjacent to the alley using part of the golf course.

Najar said that option would cost more than $100,000, however. It would involve relocating a tee box and cart path as well as relocating or reducing the size of a pitching green east of the pro shop.

Roebuck said because of the opposition it would be difficult for him to vote for the proposal, but he was disappointed in the continued opposition.

“I am a little disappointed in our community that we can’t see the long-term benefit of this,” he said.

A trail connection from the west is still a possibility. The city has applied for a $225,000 grant from the Federal Transportation Alternative Program. If awarded, those funds would become available for fiscal year 2023 and could be used for one of the other options that have been proposed including building a trail from the southwest area of Cielo Grande west along an old runway to near Sycamore Avenue, where it would connect with a trail in the J. Kenneth Smith Bird Sanctuary and Nature Center. That trail then connects with the Spring River Trail.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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