City leaders consider pedestrian/bike path near Lake Jax

By Nick Kovatch on March 11 at 1:45pm

The old bridge connecting West Lake Road over a creek from the spillway of Lake Jacksonville was torn down about 20 years ago. There's a push to build a new bridge and open a recreational trail.

Several civic leaders took a tour of what could become a pedestrian/bike trail around Lake Jacksonville this morning.

A Jacksonville Special Studies committee headed by Alderman Lori Large-Oldenettel is exploring the possibility of re-opening a pedestrian bridge on the west side of the lake along what used to West Lake Road.

“People are looking for additional recreation opportunities,” says Large-Oldenettel. “Unless you’ve been out there to really look at the bridge where it used to be you can’t really get a good visual. We wanted to get everyone together, go out to take a look at it, and get us all looking at it in the same way. It helps put us all in the same perspective as to what direction we really need to go now.”

Parks and Lakes Superintendent Bruce Surratt says an old wooden bridge near the spillway was closed about 20 years ago after the state deemed it unsafe.

He says if a new one is built it would be strictly for pedestrian use.

“No golf carts whether they be internal combustion or electric,” says Surratt. “It’s going to be a bridge for pedestrian, bike, wheelchair and stroller traffic. There will be no vehicular traffic on there.”

“But we have to talk to probably the Department of Natural Resources and find out how wide the bridge has to be, what’s the load limit on it and things like that,” says Surratt.

Surratt adds this would be the first phase of a potentially larger project down the road.

“We’d kind of be starting in the middle first and then as things went on or monies become available or wanted to go longer we could go farther south or north or around the lake a little bit more,” says Surratt. “This is an area where people walk up and down it anyway. You stop at where the bridge used to be because nobody could jump across there. It’s a pretty good gorge right now. But we could start with something that we would have to have no right-of-ways and no property purchased. Really no money would be expended for that except for the materials that would take on the bridge.”

Large-Oldennettel says planning is still in the infancy stage.

“There’s a lot of people that we’re going to have to pull together,” says Large-Oldenettel. “Right now, we’re just going to start looking at some maps, start talking to some folks and see what we would really have to do and how much it would cost. Hopefully, we’ll know more next month after we meet and have done a little bit more legwork.”

Also during today’s special studies committee, a date for another Town Brook cleanup was announced for April 12th from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Volunteers are expected to meet in Foreman’s Grove and cleanup the east end of the city’s waterway.

More information is expected later this month.