A controversial bike trail alignment that’s divided a community divided the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners at a Tuesday meeting.
The commissioners tied in a 2-2 vote over whether the Archer Braid trail should run through Haile Plantation, as the current plan shows, according to the Gainesville Sun.
The proposed trail runs along SW 91st Street and SW 46th Avenue and from Tower Road to Veteran’s Park, according to an August news release from the Alachua County Communications Office.
To keep federal funding for the project, the county must give construction plans to the Florida Department of Transportation by March. Concerns included trail maintenance and maintenance responsibility, according to the meeting’s agenda.
Also on the meeting’s agenda was approving the first design plans for the trail, authorize development of the second phase’s design plans and allow staff to design and construct a path between SW 75th Terrace and SW 75th Street on the south side of Archer Road.
A 3-1 vote approved the next phase of design plan development for the trail excluding the controversial part of the trail that traverses through Haile Plantation. The Haile issue may come up again at a Sept. 25 budget hearing. The plan is projected to cost $1.2 million; the project received $1.5 million from an FDOT grant, according to the Sun.
Supporters and opponents of the Haile part of the trail have been vocal on the issue since a July 24 public meeting.
Cyclist and poet Lola Haskins said the trail extension is unnecessary as her fellow Haile residents already have access to bicycle-pedestrian trails.
She said rather than create a new trail, an existing trail on Tower Road located across the street from the proposed trail could be made public and extended to meet the Archer Braid Trail.
Haskins, a member of the Sierra Club environmental organization, said the issue has been an enormous and bitter one for those involved.
“I feel very strongly for biking and for environmental causes,” she said. “I just think this particular project could’ve been better handled.”
James Thompson, advocacy director for the Gainesville Cycling Club, said Haile lacks safe, proper bike trails. The trails already in the community are better suited for joggers and walkers.
He said the new trail would be safer for veteran cyclists such as himself and students of the nearby middle schools returning home. Opponents’ criticisms of the trail–such as crime increase and additional costs–are wrong or exaggerated.
“There is some dissent from the homeowners and business owners association,” Thompson said. “But as they themselves have admitted in front of the county and to the public, they have been raising interest around this issue based on some false pretenses.”
Luis Giraldo contributed to this report.