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Common sense says vote no on nature path initiatives

For a number of years, Treasure Valley residents have enjoyed a unique amenity – the 1.5-mile Garden City Nature Path preserved for walkers, runners and nature lovers. In an increasingly urbanized valley, this small section of Greenbelt offers users access to a tranquil, natural, riparian environment.

Also for a number of years, a small group of biking enthusiasts called Citizens for an Open Greenbelt has tried to get the city to open this nature path to biking. In 2008, COG tried to get the city council to repeal the law preserving the path for pedestrians. They failed. Next, they tried to get the Idaho attorney general and the Idaho Land Board to overrule Garden City and open the path to biking. They failed. Next, they filed suit against Garden City to open the path to biking, costing city taxpayers $20,000 to defend the ordinance. Once again they failed, as a 4th District Court judge dismissed their claims and awarded Garden City a summary judgment. Now COG, having got only 67 signatures on a petition, is sponsoring two initiatives to convert this small section of path into what they call a “nonmotorized transportation corridor.”

On Nov. 6, residents will vote on these initiatives. I ask them to vote no for three main reasons:

1) It simply is not needed. A unique, natural area should not be sacrificed when bikers will soon have three dedicated bike paths through Garden City to choose from.

Garden City has received a $727,000 federal grant to build a pedestrian/bike bridge across the river linking the existing, paved south path with the existing, paved north path, completing the paved riverside bike route from Lucky Peak to Eagle. Work has begun on the bridge project and is scheduled for completion in 2013.

A bike path on the north side of the river west of Garden City is now partially completed to Eagle Road. The final section to Eagle Road is due for completion in the next few months. ACHD will be paving a portion of this path this fall.

Bikers also have a paved route through Garden City from Boise along the Greenbelt to Glenwood, then west of Glenwood using 20 mph residential streets for about two miles before it links back up to a paved Greenbelt that then connects to Eagle.

2) Fulfilling the initiatives as presented will require major changes to the nature path and cost taxpayers approximately $1.1 million. The initiative as written by COG would require Garden City to provide a transportation corridor open to all nonmotorized vehicles. To understand what would be required of the city to comply with these initiatives as written by COG, we hired an independent consultant to help define what constitutes a safe, nonmotorized transportation corridor. The consultant’s findings indicate that the city would need to complete environmental and watershed studies, widen the path, widen or replace three bridges, pave and elevate sections of the path, and adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act. The bottom line: A cost to taxpayers of about $1.1 million not counting maintenance.

3) The 30-plus-mile Greenbelt system from Lucky Peak through Eagle was never intended to be solely a transportation route for bikers, but rather a multi-use resource for hikers, walkers, runners, anglers and nature watchers, as well as bikers. Garden City does not think reserving 1.5 miles of the system for pedestrians is asking for much, especially since bikers are being provided three dedicated bike routes through the city. Boise has the Bethine Church Nature Trail. Garden City residents deserve the same.

Mike Moser has lived in Garden City since 1998 and has been a member of the City Council since 2008. He is now serving his second term as City Council president.

About Mike Moser