There was only one bicycle in Rayna Patton’s garage Wednesday afternoon.
But her husband was out riding a bike at the time, while another was at a shop for a tune-up. This is a bicycle family as far as she was concerned, Patton said.
But she opposes a particular bike trail the city has considered since early 2000. The path would include an extension of an existing 1,800-foot gravel trail along the Delaware Run creek. The expansion would connect the trail between Houk Road and downtown.
The trail is located behind a campus of Willow Brook Christian Communities, which Patton has lived in for four years.
“This isn’t about bike paths,” she said. “It’s about one bike path.”
She’s gathered about 120 signatures on a petition to remove the proposed path from a bike plan Delaware City Council may adopt. The plan is an update to the one Council adopted in June 2010.
Council will have a public hearing on the resolution to adopt the update at City Hall, 1 S. Sandusky St., 7:15 p.m. Monday.
City officials have said there are no funds to build the proposed bike paths but planning is critical for such projects, which would be funded by grants. The Delaware Run trail was identified in the adopted 2010 plan as a stream corridor path that “will create an exciting recreational destination for residents and others.”
The city contracted with Stantec Consulting Services to update the current plan. Recommendations were presented to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board in October. The board not only recommended the plan, but highlighted 15 of the more than 80 recommendations Stantec presented. Among them was the $1.67 million project for the Delaware Run trail that Patton opposes.
“Spending $1.67 million of taxpayer money to build an impractical, unsafe, and unnecessary one-mile long bike path in a flood plain is a very bad idea,” she said.
Patton voiced her opposition when the update was presented to and approved by the Planning Commission in March. She asked the commission to remove the recommendation, but its members said it should be Council’s decision.
Another resident had spoken out against the path when Council had a first reading of the resolution in March. Patricia Belch, a resident of the Grandview Estates subdivision, voiced similar concerns to Patton’s about the trail. It was at the same meeting Council established Monday’s hearing.
Extending the path, Patton said, would make the Willow Brook community more vulnerable to people with criminal intentions.
Since 2015, Willow Brook at Delaware Run had seven criminal incidents including three thefts and a burglary, according to Delaware police. But a police official said there’s no indication of a relationship between the existing trail and those crimes.
If the trail was extended, crime could likely be deterred because more people were using the trail, said Parks and Natural Resources Director Ted Miller. Delaware police could also provide bike patrols at night if needed. City officials suggested barriers as a way to protect homeowner’s privacy.
“Depending on the concern, solutions can range from solid wood fence, mounding or masonry walls, to open style fencing or vegetative barriers where no fencing is desired. If a barrier is needed, the specific type will be determined in consultation with homeowners,” city spokesman Lee Yoakum said in an email.
Security is a concern for Larry Harris, chief executive officer of Willow Brook Communities, who plans to attend Monday’s hearing. He said expansion of the trail would leave 14 homes vulnerable for people to use the trail as an escape route after breaking into homes to steal their residents’ valuables.
“It would be very easy for some people with malcontent,” he said.
Patton and Harris have concerns about the construction’s impact on the environment, including the removal of trees. Both cite a report by Ohio Wesleyan University professor Edward Burtt, who died last year, that stated the area was host to “an unusually diverse assemblage of birds.” It also said: “Furthermore, the corridor also boast diverse communities of butterflies, mammals and other vertebrates.”
Harris said he would hate to see the area further disturbed.
“It’s just kind of sad to see a natural area that is harmed with further development,” he said. Harris hopes the city will considered an alternative. He understands that the route is not guaranteed if the city adopts the update.
But Council’s potential adoption with its inclusion is “one more step even if it doesn’t occur immediately to bring it to reality,” Harris said.
Miller said the mitigation of tree removal would be clearer if the project reached the detailed and design stage. But he expects much of the replacement to be handled on site.
Before any trails are constructed, the city will conduct a review of potential impacts to natural and cultural resources in the stream corridor, Yoakum said.
“In addition, a trail would likely require supplemental funding from state and federal sources which typically require additional environmental and cultural reviews,” he said.
Patton said the trail would be located on a floodplain with the existing trail flooded two to three times a year, which often washes away the crushed gravel.
The city required Willow Brook to install the existing trail more than 10 years ago, Harris said. The city is responsible for the trail’s maintenance. But Willow Brook has taken care of it, he said, but did not say how much his community pays for maintenance.
“I honestly don’t know,”Harris said, but added he would be happy to transfer the responsibility to the city if it extends the trail.
Miller said his department would handle upkeep if the Delaware Run trail became a reality. He has not checked the area’s floodplain map, which is done at the design stage.
“We’re not just there to this point,” he said.
But the trails would be designed to withstand flooding, Yoakum said. Considerations during the detailed design process would include the hydrology of the creek, trail placement and cross trail drainage to limit post-flood debris on the trails.
“Technical studies would be needed to ensure that the project does not increase flood risk to adjacent properties or structures,”he said. “In some locations, construction of the trails may actually help protect private property from flood damage by stabilizing and reinforcing areas of erosion.”
Also, Patton said the trail is not feasible partly because of the area’s black locusts trees, which have thorns. She said it punctured one resident’s bike tires. And another resident, Patton added, injured himself while riding on the crushed gravel of the existing trail.
She suggested an alternative route that would connect Houk Road; William Street; Curtis Road; Park Street and Sandusky Street.
Miller said Patton’s alternative is a viable route. But the Delaware Run trail would serve as a community connector of the city’s disconnected bike network and provide a scenic route, he added.
“It’s something that’s been on the radar,” for over 15 years, Miller said.
The Delaware Run trail was considered the most popular path with 25.3 percent in favor of the trail as a first priority, according to a community survey with 171 respondents. Miller said some of the respondents were against the trail. Stantec also had mobile input stations, public meetings and comment periods.
Patton said she wasn’t among those surveyed or had come across any of its respondents. But she said people who see the trail only on the map wouldn’t know the full impact.
They would say, “‘oh a bike path through the woods, how nice,’” she said. “But it’s a terrible idea.”
Gazette reporter Brandon Klein can be reached by email or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.