Residents share concerns about bike trail proposal

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Thursday, June 14, 2012
— Safety, tax money and property values were among the top concerns expressed by residents who live near a proposed pedestrian/bicycle trail at an open house Wednesday night.

Supporters hoping to connect an off-road path from just north of Afton to Beloit invited residents to review the proposal and provide input at the Beloit Town Hall.

Linda Kay Cook and her husband, Joseph Cook, live on a curve on South Walters Road that the trail is proposed to follow. She told members of the Rock Trail Coalition and city of Janesville and town of Beloit officials she already couldn't see traffic when turning out of her driveway.

"I'm scared to death of the child" or adult who doesn't see traffic on a trail, she said. She's said for years the road itself should be straightened because vehicles fly around it.

"You have to creep out and pray," she said.

Dean Paynter, president of the Rock Trail Coalition, said planners are hoping to alter their plans to avoid the curve altogether by having the trail cross Walters Road to the north and go behind the town wastewater treatment plant.

The proposed route would use roads through Afton, pick up an old rail line at West Third Street and cross Bass Creek if the property easements can be negotiated, he said. The off-road trail would follow South Duggan Road south to land owned by the town of Beloit, where the trail would veer east to avoid homes before continuing into Big Hill Park, he said.

The trail was altered to accommodate previous concerns from residents who would have had the trail running along their backyards. Some of those residents, such as Belle Zyla, who lives on Duggan Road, said they appreciated the change.

Zyla and her husband have horses, and they figured under the previous route, families would stop at their property to look at the animals. But, she said, she still has concerns about the cost to taxpayers to build the project, as well as the potential liability for the county, which would maintain the trail.

Extending the trail from Afton to Beloit would cost about $3.3 million, according to a consultant's estimate.

Township taxpayers would be giving away land, Zyla said, and grant money to pay for the project is still taxpayer money.

Kay Cook and other residents worried about their property values decreasing and taxes increasing if a trail were located near their properties. Trail supporters said a trail often increases property values because many homebuyers find being near a trail a positive.

Studies show that when homes within a mile of a bike trail are compared to similar-situated residential areas, the homes on the trail generally have a 12 to 20 percent higher property values, said Ryan Garcia, a planner with SAA Design Group, which helped trail supporters complete a master plan and feasibility study.

Walters Road resident Steve Schmalz said he would appreciate a safer, off-road path into Beloit because he used to commute by bicycle to Loves Park, Ill. But he was concerned about spending money when Afton Road has existing bike lanes.

"What they're doing is already there," he said, referring to Afton Road's paved shoulders with bike lanes. "Now, they're duplicating something that has more appeal to recreational riders and all of that, but there's no question that they're spending money to add redundancy."

The off-road trail would be safer and more aesthetic, supporters say.

Last updated: 8:47 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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