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County Commission Votes To Keep Barr Hammock Trail Open

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A crowded audience of Island Field residents and trail supporters filled the Jack Durrance Auditorium at the Alachua County Administration building on Tuesday night. The County Commission voted on how to address complaints regarding use of the Barr Hammock trail.
A crowded audience of Island Field residents and trail supporters filled the Jack Durrance Auditorium at the Alachua County Administration building on Tuesday night. The County Commission voted on how to address complaints regarding use of the Barr Hammock trail.” credit=”Olivia Muenter / WUFT News

The Alachua County Commission met Tuesday night to address noise and privacy complaints from residents who live near the Levy Loop Trail at the Barr Hammock Levy Prairie Preserve.

The commission reviewed 11 solutions presented by county staff, ruling out the suggestion to close a section of the trail entirely, a possibility that was opposed by many Alachua County residents and trail-goers.

Instead, staff recommended keeping the trail open year-round, leaving homeowners complaints’ in the trail-adjacent neighborhood of Island Field without an answer. Island Field residents first presented issues with the trail’s use in a July 2014 commission meeting, stating visitors to the trail cause noise pollution along with privacy and security concerns.

Marc Meisel, an Island Field resident, spoke to the commission Tuesday on behalf of other concerned neighbors in the community, five of whom were present at the meeting.

“When I chose my home, I could not have reasonably assumed or imagined that the public would be parading by my house a stone’s throw away,” Meisel said.

Meisel also said the trail entrance, located close to Island Field, was never planned to be a main entryway for the public.

“For the first five years of its plan, our location was never mentioned as an entrance,” he said. “Why did they do it at the very last minute? Because they wanted to save money.”

Meisel said closing the trail was never the neighborhood’s goal.

The remaining alternatives aimed for compromise. One solution suggested placing a second entrance on the path that would encourage people to go the opposite way.

While Commissioner Lee Pinkoson presented the suggestion as a substitute motion, Commissioner Mike Byerly strongly disagreed.

“I don’t think we should spend any more taxpayers’ money to keep them off of their own property,” Byerly said. “I think it is an inappropriate time to use the word compromise.”

Byerly presented a second substitute motion allowing for Alachua County staff to reconvene at a later date with ideas on how to make equal changes to the trail. Both to the path leading to the Island Field-adjacent trail and the one leading away from it.

Byerly’s motion unanimously passed leaving some Island Field residents and trail-
goers unsatisfied.

Felicia Lee, Alachua County resident, said she was disappointed by the meeting’s outcome.

“I’m really disappointed at the lack of conviction that was shown,” Lee said. “I hope that they do respect the public trust, and the public trust was to keep that land open for the public, and that’s where it should be.”

Meisel said residents of Island Field will continue to hope for compromise and called the idea that homeowners wanted to close the trail entirely was a misunderstanding.

“We’d like to get creative and find a solution that allows the public the right to enjoy the trail but also respects our privacy,” Meisel said.

About Olivia Muenter

Olivia is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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