Matt Tomc is worried a proposed trailhead park across from his home near 19th and Delaware streets may not produce much fun.
Instead, he and his neighbors are concerned it could become a new gathering ground for the homeless if The Salvation Army eventually builds a homeless shelter and community building near the site.
"We're not trying to level criticism at The Salvation Army, but we know that they do turn people away who have been drinking, and we would hate to see those people spill over into the park and decide to sleep there," said Tomc, president of The Woods on 19th Homeowners' Assn. "We don't want it to be something that gives the area a bad reputation."
Whether parks and homeless shelters mesh well together is an issue that will be before city commissioners tonight. Commissioners will consider approving the Burroughs Creek Corridor Study, which proposes a trail be built along the abandoned Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway line that runs through the Brook Creek, East Lawrence and Barker neighborhoods.
The study also suggests a small park be built in the 700 block of East 19th Street to provide the public an access point to the trail. The plan also recommends another small trailhead park be built on the site of the former Lawrence Sale Barn, adjacent to Hobbs Park at 11th and Delaware streets.
Tomc said he wanted commissioners to approve the corridor plan, minus the recommendation for the 19th Street park. Wesley Dalberg, the Lawrence administrator for The Salvation Army, said he could understand the neighbors' concerns but said it was too early to know whether they were well founded.
"I don't want people to think we aren't concerned about the same things they are," Dalberg said. "I guess I would just want them to know that we'll be at the ready to address any problems that may come up."
Members of the committee who developed the plan said providing good public access to the trail was important. The 19th Street location was suggested, in part, because there were indications the property owner - Lee Zimmerman Sr. - was willing to sell the two rental homes on the property to the city.
If commissioners approve the corridor plan, it will complete a year's worth of study to determine how the area should develop. The centerpiece of the plan is the trail, which would be 10 feet wide with native plants and grasses surrounding it. The trail would run from near Hobbs Park to just south of 23rd Street, where it would connect with the city's existing Haskell Rail Trail.
The city has applied for a federal grant to pay for 80 percent of the estimated $1.5 million project. City leaders should learn whether they've been awarded the grant in late spring.