Archive for Monday, November 28, 2005

City to consider trail project in E. Lawrence

November 28, 2005


A 10-foot wide hike/bike trail surrounded by native plants and grasses should meander through East Lawrence neighborhoods filled with residential housing and neighborhood-friendly businesses.

At least, that's the recommendation of a city committee that for a year has been studying how to use an abandoned stretch of railroad that runs through the East Lawrence, Barker and Brook Creek neighborhoods.

"The overall concept is to revitalize the whole region of the city by bringing new energy, imagination, creativity and funding to an area that historically has not been emphasized as an area to interact or enjoy the beauty that exists," said James Grauerholz, a member of the committee.

City commissioners will get their first look at the Burroughs Creek Corridor Plan at their 6:35 p.m. meeting Tuesday. But commissioners already have expressed support for the general idea. Commissioners in October agreed to apply for a federal transportation grant to build the trail, which would run from Hobbs Park near 10th and Delaware streets to Prairie Park near 28th Street Terrace and Harper Street.

But the new plan provides more specifics on what steps the city needs to take. The plan calls for the city to buy the former Lawrence Sale Barn property at 900 E. 11th St., the rail spur property between Maryland and Delaware streets, and two single-family homes at 702 and 710 E. 19th St.

The sale barn site and the two home sites would be used to provide access points for the public to enter the trail, and also could house basic amenities such as parking, bathrooms or picnic areas.

A city committee has recommended that an abandoned rail line in East Lawrence should become a 10-foot wide hike/bike trail surrounded by native plants and grasses.  A hiker recently followed the tracks north from 23rd Street.

A city committee has recommended that an abandoned rail line in East Lawrence should become a 10-foot wide hike/bike trail surrounded by native plants and grasses. A hiker recently followed the tracks north from 23rd Street.

"I'm real anxious to see this trail become a reality," said Lee Zimmerman Sr., who owns the two single-family rental homes at 702 and 710 E. 19th St. and also is a member of the study committee. "I think it would be well-used."

The report also recommends the trail be developed using a landscaping strategy that uses slow-growing, drought-resistant plants that conserve water and reduce yard trimmings.

"We really would like to keep it as a nature corridor, because there are deer and owls and other types of wildlife in the area as well," said Michelle Leininger, a planner in the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department.

The report doesn't put a specific cost on the trail project, but when the city applied for the federal grant in October, it estimated costs at $1.5 million. If awarded the grant, the city would be responsible for 20 percent of the project, or about $300,000. The city should learn whether it has received the grant in May.

The report also discusses how property should be allowed to develop around the trail. Leininger said the committee agreed it should develop a mix of small-scale residential projects and neighborhood-friendly businesses.

But because of the rail line, which largely was abandoned in 1987, there are several small industrial businesses in the area and several vacant lots that are zoned for industrial uses.

Zimmerman, who is an owner of Zimmerman Steel Co., 701 E. 19th, said the committee made it clear it didn't want to cause current businesses to relocate or change their operations.

But the report does recommend rezoning at least five pieces of property that have industrial zoning but have either residential, retail or office uses.

Businesses on the properties that would be rezoned were mixed about that portion of the plan. At Independence Inc., 2001 Haskell Ave., Tony Peterson, assistant director of operations, said the nonprofit's board hadn't taken a position on the potential rezoning. But Peterson said he believed the rezoning likely would not affect the organization's operations.

Wesley Dalberg, administrator with the Lawrence Salvation Army, said his organization still had unanswered questions about plans to rezone property in the 800 block of Lynn Street that is slated to house a homeless shelter and service center for the Salvation Army.


akuna 12 years, 6 months ago

This is uber exciting. Even now I run down the rails to avoid traffic and to get a sense of being away from the bustle of city life. Turning the rails into trails would make for a great way for people traveling on bikes to commute on the east side of Lawrence in a far safer manner than riding on the streets. This is a very nice plan.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 6 months ago

Can't wait for the claims that this is a "communist" plot. Those who will make such claims would apparently and ironically prefer that Lawrence look like a cold-war era eastern European city.

Frank Dorsey 12 years, 6 months ago

This is a great idea. Does anyone know if this would connect the current trail that runs by Haskell University?

redmorgan 12 years, 6 months ago

I would love to see this actually materialize. I live in E Lawrence; it'd be great to have a nice place to walk and/or ride bikes in my neighborhood.

Godot 12 years, 6 months ago

Sounds like a good idea. Really good to see amenities being improved in those neighborhoods.

As long as the existing business owners aren't run out, then there shouldn't be anything wrong with it. Aside from the high dollar new "contractor mall" on North Second, there aren't many places in Lawrence where those kinds of businesses can exist, so if they were forced to relocate, they probably couldn't.

One thing seems wierd about this, though. When a property owner is a member of a committee that determines his property should be purchased by the city, there is clearly a conflict of interest. I'm surprised that was allowed to happen.

Godot 12 years, 6 months ago

Now that I think about it, it doesn't make sense for Lawrence to change commercial zoned property to residential when we are in a position of not having enough businesses, and having too many homes. They ought to be going the other direction: since there are existing businesses there, change more of the surrounding residential zoning to commercial and make a larger industrial zone out of it.

If this is part of the plan to have the city/county purchase Farmland for a city-owned industrial park, and force those businesses into that area, no doubt at much higher cost, then I'm against it.

J Good Good 12 years, 6 months ago

Actually the plan is to protect the neighborhood. There was no zoning at all in this area for many many years, and then the industrial/commercial was "spot zoned" due to the railroad (which is now gone). This is one of the few places where industrial zoning is right next to 150 year old historic homes. This is a great "real" neighborhood, and the uses have coexisted for a long time. Lets not run the people out of one of the few affordable neighborhoods in town, when we have the East Hills Business park right down the road.....

dviper 12 years, 6 months ago

What is the definition of 'neighborhood friendly businesses'?

Godot 12 years, 6 months ago

Probably anything that is opposite of what is already there. I see a future where these businesses are going to be forced to move.

J Good Good 12 years, 6 months ago

This committee has worked with many of the business owners in the area from the very beginning, and most of them have been very supportive. These businesses are mostly very longstanding and no one has ever said they shouldn't be there. Please don't assume the most negative outcome out of a situation and an area that you appear to be unfaimiliar with......

Godot 12 years, 6 months ago

You're right. I'm totally unfamiliar with it. Like I said, my first impression, partcularly the part about the trail, is positive.

It is the unanswered questions, and putting them together with all the other things I've heard coming from the city commission that makes me skeptical. It would be very helpful if the JW would cover the deliberations of these committees as they are proceeding, rather than waiting until the plan is complete and ready to be presented to the Commission to announce it as what seems to be a done deal. People other than the ones the committee chooses to include might want to be informed and have input.

bearded_gnome 12 years, 6 months ago

so, this trail will go right by the new homeless center? who is going to use it...normal trail hikers/bikers, or the bums/bumettes going to and from that center then funneling them towards 11th? concentration of the homeless' crimes in area of this trail...makes a lot of sense to me...

Commenting has been disabled for this item.