There was a full meeting room last night at the public meeting about the latest proposal for the Keystone to Field Club trail connector. Several members of the NRD board were in attendance, as were several members of the City of Omaha Parks & Rec department, Councilman Gary Gernandt, and State Senator Heath Mello. The majority of the citizens in attendance are residents of the neighborhood along the proposed D Street portion of the proposed trail.
The speaker spent a great deal of time discussing the history of Omaha's trail network, Bob Kerry's "Back to the River" vision that spurred the initial trail master plan, different types of bike/ped infrastructure, and finally the history of how they arrived at the proposed route for the connector trail that would run along D Street.
The long and short of it is this: The neighbors along D Street feel like they have been left out of the planning process, and they voiced concerns about safety along D Street, specifically the number of industrial trucks that come in and out on that street.
Several of the citizens spoke up with concerns about being required to give up a portion of their property for the trail to be built, specifically that they had no idea that this particular route option was being considered and that they should have been in the loop sooner. One man expressed that his business was "targeted for demolition" and that he had never been notified.
Of course, the NRD provided their side as well, explaining that this meeting was part of the process to explore options for the location of the trail, that no plans have been cast in stone, and that they want public input.
Many of the concerned citizens that spoke up last night prefaced their remarks with "I am pro-trail." In fact, when the crowd was asked point blank, "Is anyone here just plain opposed to the trail in the first place?" no hands went up. Several neighborhood association reps voiced support for the trail itself, described their neighborhood watch efforts and how they would gladly extend those efforts to the portions of the trail in their neighborhood; they also realize that the trail would bring more "eyes on the street" and that any illicit activity, graffiti, etc., would likely be driven away by the trail.
The comments worth their weight in gold last night came at the end of the meeting where a man stood up and told the crowd that he was part of the neighborhood association in the Karen Park area when the NRD routed a trail in their neighborhood. He said that his neighbors were concerned about the proposed route and the process, but that the NRD were very open to their concerns and in the end worked with them to craft the best solution. He said that it took time, but that today the neighborhood is pleased with the result.
I came away feeling very hopeful that the leaders of the neighborhood associations, the NRD and the City will be able to work together to find a creative solution that will benefit everyone. More public meetings will be held, more input will be gathered. Thanks to Matt, Andrew, Ananath and Randy who showed up to represent OmahaBikes.