Back-and-forth on budgeted bridge at Parks and Lakes meeting

By Gary Scott on May 18, 2016 at 1:02pm

Despite money being budgeted for it, not everyone appears on board with plans for a proposed pedestrian bridge in the Lake Jacksonville area.

The Jacksonville Finance Committee put $100-thousand for a new bridge in this year’s budget, and a plan for the bridge and a new bike trail has been devised pro bono by the Benton and Associates engineering firm.

The bridge would replace a previous structure that failed decades ago going over Sandy Creek on West Lake Road.

A number of people, including those who live around the lake, voiced various opinions on the idea during a Parks and Lakes Committee meeting Tuesday night.

Gary Frye says he’s lived near the bridge since shortly before it collapsed in 1976. He says since then, there’s been no maintenance on the road whatsoever.

“They haven’t done a darn thing to take care of it. Trees have fallen over that road, and we’ve had to come take it off ourselves. We spent a lot of time. It’s always been trashed. And, I know the police department has had stabbings, people using drugs, beer cans, it’s a trashed-up area,” says Frye.

“My concern is opening that up to something which we cannot define. Is it a pedestrian bridge, is it a bike bridge, is it an ATV bridge? How wide is it? Will it meet ADA standards? I’m also concerned about tax money. Is $100-thousand going to be for a handful of people?” he adds.

However, Steven Davidsmeyer was one of several people who argued in favor of the bridge.

“The bridge is one smaller step, I think, to a much larger thing. If it connects us to the rest of the town, to another recreational area, if it promotes healthy living. I’m an animal lover, if it’s something that people who want to walk dogs can get on, another opportunity for people and animals t get out into the community, it’s an excellent thing,” Davidsmeyer says.

“It’s one of those forward-progressive things that draws people back to Jacksonville or to Jacksonville for the first time, not just people, but also organizations and companies and things like that,” he continues.

Community Development and Recreational Facilities Director Kelly Hall said he’d like to see new paths created around other areas of the park first.

The committee informally voted to send the bridge plan to the full City Council, but Alderwoman Lori Large Oldenettel said she was uncomfortable making a decision to vote without more information.

After a somewhat-heated exchange between Oldenettel and Alderman Steve Warmowski, who spearheaded the bridge effort, committee chair Marcy Patterson decided not to take the plan to council yet, saying she didn’t want the “argument” at the full City Council level.

Alderman Bill Scott, who is not on the Parks committee, warned its members that the money budgeted for the bridge this year might not get put in again next year, and to act accordingly.

Residents are invited to explore the proposed bridge on West Lake Road on Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m. Volunteers from the Town Brook Initiative, which is part of the Jacksonville Parks Foundation, will be on hand to answer questions.

In other action, committee members also expressed interest in a feasibility study regarding a possible new public pool in the city. Committee chair Marcy Patterson says a request will be made for funds for the study in the 2017 fiscal year budget.