By Natalie Conrad
Herald Staff Writer
Students will have a safer way to walk to school with a new recreation trail next fall.
The Camanche City Council approved a plan to put a trail along Ninth Street at a meeting Tuesday.
“We want to make sure that children can get to school safely,” Mayor Ken Fahlbeck said. “And anyone can enjoy walking or biking along the trail with a sense of safety.”
Council members met for a special work session prior to the meeting to discuss plans for the new trail. The project will be partially paid for by an STP enhancement grant. The city has already paid $13,000 toward engineering costs for the project.
At a previous meeting, several residents of Ninth Street voiced complaints against putting in the new trail. Nineteen homes and two open lots would be affected by the project.
According to the plan, from the curb, the city right-of-way would consist of 2 to 3 feet for the mailbox, followed by 5 feet of required space, the 8-foot rec trail and an additional 7 feet of open space running up to the property line. This would leave residents with an average yard size of 30 feet.
Safety and a decrease in parking space along with a possible decrease in property value caused major concern among the citizens.
Both safety and property value were up for speculation, with no solid support or evidence.
“I don’t see any safety issues coming from the trail,” Police Chief Bob Houzenga said.
The city had briefly considered having a sidewalk instead, but it would have to be paid for and maintained by the residents and STP funding could not be used. This would cost each household about $4,000.
“We chose a rec trail instead of sidewalk to save homeowners money,” Councilwoman Linda Kramer said. “We thought people would be excited that we got money for it.”
City officials also mentioned that sidewalks have more strict requirements now than they had previously to meet ADA requirements.
“There have been a number of communities who put in sidewalks that weren’t ADA compliant and had to take them out,” City Administrator Tom Roth said.
Originally the plan was to put in a 10-foot asphalt trail along the city right-of-way, but with the overwhelming complaints of the residents, the council reconsidered. The City Council came to a compromise of making it an eight-foot concrete trail. Eight feet is the smallest the path can be to meet the requirements of a rec trail and be eligible for funding.
While many residents said they were surprised about the proposition, the discussion to install the trail has been going on for several years. Information on the project has also been printed in the city newsletter and listed on several meeting agendas.
“This is not a new issue,” Fahlbeck said. “We have discussed this since 2008. It started with the school trying to get a grant for a trail, but it did not go through. The city decided to take it on as a project.”
“Getting the trail has always been a priority,” Councilman Paul Varner added.
While the city was fully willing to work with the property owners, they had to accept that not all would be satisfied with the outcome.
“We can’t make everyone happy,” Kramer said. “It would be a shame to miss out on this funding.”
City Engineer Dan Solchenberger will submit the plan to the Department of Transportation within the next few weeks. The project is expected to go out for bids in 2013 and be constructed next summer.
“We try to do the best we can as a business and for the community,” Fahlbeck said.