Tuesday, September 11, 2007

trails all over

two trails-related mtgs this week, the first of the Trails Advisory Committee (TAC) for Fall 2007, the second an open house sponsored by the Non-Motorized Transportation Committee (NMTC). Both mtgs lightly attended (we are having awfully nice weather after all.)

The NMTC showed maps of potential trail corridors, for addition to the City GIS so that they show up during future development projects, before they get a house built smack in the middle. A lot of trails have disappeared over the years, but there still is a loosely-connected mesh. The NMTC is working to identify what's there, and help determine where best to add new trails to offer better connectivity throughout. (sounds like a network doens't it! next we'll be talking about the graph topology...)

As for the TAC mtg, we are at some sort of inflection point I think. Apparently when the old District dissolved and transferred to the new District, they passed along the entire reporting structure of the citizen advisory committees over to the staff, who
seem to have a decidely different take on the role of volunteers advising them.

What happens next depends upon both staff and TAC members. Since the new staff have taken over, we've had several points of contention - and each time they've revolved around the construction of a trail that had not been reviewed. Often this was at the urging of someone "higher-up" and the resulting trail violated both the existing trail standards (such as they are) as well as the model of low-maintenance trails we've been attempting to develop.

The most recent occurrence of this is the weird little trail that was punched through at the old Lovgreen Road gravel pit, supposedly to improve non-motorized access. I don't think we're going to see many cyclists using it for commuting - its way too steep, has a 90 degree turn halfway down the slope and a 180 degree turn at the bottom. I'll give them credit - they built one helluva culvert - we'll see whether its enough to deal with the runoff on that slope.

Much of the TAC work has been to go in afterwards and fix things, and its getting a little tiring. Sometimes they're more than a volunteer group can manage effectively using manual labor. its one thing to fix up historical trails, half of which were old logging roads or jeep roads anyway, but to find new ones built w/o regard to topography or aesthetics is very frustrating.

As a TAC member, and as a citizen, I've asked informally for a trail-building protocol, and was flatly denied by staff during this meeting, although staff then did promise to try and work with us. Exactly which trail is so important to build "right now" that it needs to be built w/o design review and/or community input, I'm not quite sure. Okay, i'm being cynical.
Maybe this will work out with an "informal" protocol, but given the past incidents I have my doubts.
If not, I guess the next step is to petition the Board or the City Council to establish a formal design review process - and that probably really will slow things down!

In the meantime, next work project continues at Fort Ward Hill trail, and supposedly a design process is going to start in Grand Forest East this winter.

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