Lake Jacksonville bridge concept turned down by City Council

By Ryne Turke on September 13, 2016 at 7:22am

It’s going to take a more defined plan for aldermen to approve the first step of a proposed bike trail around Lake Jacksonville.

For almost an hour, members of City Council and Jacksonville residents voiced their opinions on the positives and negatives of the Lake Jacksonville Pedestrian Bridge, located along Sandy Creek crossing.

The vote Monday night involved accepting the “concept” of a bridge plan, which was completed free of charge by Benton & Associates.

Voting in favor of the plan were Aldermen Marcy Patterson, Bill Scott, Steve Warmowski and Mike Wankel. Going against the plan were Aldermen Don Cook, Aaron Scott, Jeff Hopkins and Lori Large-Oldenettel.

With a tie in place, the decision was left in the hands of Mayor Andy Ezard, who voted against the plan.

“I’ve listened to this for a few years. I understand that when I see a plan that things might change, but I haven’t seen a plan. I really enjoyed the back and forth of the audience tonight. When we do projects in the city I take it very seriously. This vote certainly didn’t indicate that I was against paths and biking, it just indicated I was against the concept of the bridge on how it was laid out on a piece of paper. That is all,” Ezard says.

Ezard relied on feedback from the Parks and Lakes Committee, which signaled they aren’t ready for this project yet and other infrastructural needs should take place first.

“I heard very positive things about how groups want to volunteer and do some mountain biking trails. If we can get all the groups to work together to work, I think this will come to fruition one day. Right now was not the time for me to vote ‘yes’ on a concept.”

Lance Scott, head of the Jacksonville Mountain Bikers Club, was one of the community members who spoke during the meeting. Scott, who has a background building bike trails, said his club was willing to volunteer their time to build trails connecting west lake road and extending to the south side of the lake.

Alderman Hopkins voted “no” because the proposal was just for the “concept” of a bridge, not for a plan for the future or how to address the trails.

“The committee needs to work forward to initiate a plan. There needs to be phases put forth for who is going to do it and what the cost will be. I’m not going to vote ‘yes’ on a concept of a bridge and give everyone false hope we are going to build something. I want a true plan and a work of action to vote on. If we are going to build this lets have a plan of how we will maintain it, how it will function, what we need to take care of it,” says Hopkins.

Alderman Warmowski was disappointed the council didn’t approve the bridge concept, which he says is the first step in the right direction for a bike trail.

“The minute you put that bridge in, you have about a mile there and back that you can take your family and walk with no traffic.  Go a little bit farther and you can walk with low traffic. It would have been a great opening of the lake, something that would have been great for community health and great for economic development for saying Jacksonville has amenities to offer people,” says Warmowski.

Warmowski says this was the City of Jacksonville’s opportunity to show the community some support for the bike trail.

“Pretty much nine aldermen expressed interest in doing something with the bike plan. They were a little concerned about starting off with a bridge without a more detailed plan. I have received a lot of communication on this issue. More people have come to this meeting than I think one or two issues since I have been on City Council. This is something where a lot of people have shown interest and would like to see the City match that interest with some action,” says Warmowski.

The Jacksonville Finance Committee already put $100,000 towards a new bridge in this year’s budget.

In other action, alderman approved the lease renewal agreement with the Abraham Lincoln Council of Boys Scouts of America and the purchase of an $8,250 Cub Cadet ATV for the Parks and Lakes Department.