West Chester nixes high-priced bike path but proposes alternative

West Chester Twp. will meet again next Tuesday to discuss and possibly vote on a new Miami 2 Miami connector plan and apply for a $750,000 grant.

Trustees Mark Welch and Ann Becker voted this week against applying for a federal grant for the first leg of the proposed path, which would start at the Trinity Pub on Ohio 747 and eventually link up to 30 miles of trails in Mason. Now the township will consider an option that would take the trail up Ohio 747 and connect it to Smith Road and some existing trails in that area.

FIRST REPORT: West Chester bike path comes with a hefty price tag

The estimated cost to connect the trail from the Great Miami River in Hamilton to Mason is $17.85 million. West Chester Twp.’s estimated portion of the project is $13.6 million.

In Welch’s proposal — one he discussed at the meeting this week — the trail would extend north on Ohio 747 to Smith Road and connect to trails already in that area.

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A partnership could be forged, he said, with the developers of the new NorthPointe commercial project under construction on Ohio 747, getting them to pay for the portion of the trail that fronts their property.

The nixed plan would take people partially through industrial and business area and Welch said at least one residential property — valued at around $120,000 but the county auditor — would probably need to be acquired.

He told the Journal-News they will discuss his plan, get public input and vote whether to revise the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments grant submission that is due June 1. The vote to submit the application would be the following week.

“I’m still hoping to do that, if the stars align,” he said about the last minute change in plans.

Trustee Lee Wong, who voted in favor of the former plan, said he’ll back the new idea.

“I love bike paths, I’m open to that,” he said. “I will support it 100 percent.”

Wade Johnston, director of Tri-State Trails and Green Umbrella, the organization directing the project, said he also likes Welch’s idea because it would “link up many miles of trail that already exist.”

“We really haven’t looked into feasibility and costs to construct a trail for it, but it appears to be a promising idea that would still promote the concept of what we’re trying to accomplish here,” he said.

In 2002, the Miami 2 Miami trail connector project was proposed as an 84-mile network of interconnecting bike trails to connect the Great Miami River Recreation Bike Trail to the Little Miami Scenic Trail. The two trails already link into bike trail systems in the Dayton and Cincinnati areas.

Several people told the trustees how they feel about the Miami 2 Miami trail connector project this week, both for and against. David Corfman has spoken in support of the trails project several times before, he noted trails like these benefit the physical well-being of residents, they are attractive to businesses looking to relocate and he quoted a statistic that said property values near multimodal paths are 11 percent higher.

“I really want West Chester to embrace these opportunities that come with building these multi-use paths and realize the benefits to the residents and businesses that expect this of their community,” Corfman said.

MORE: Liberty and West Chester trustees talk walkability

Erin Clemons, President and CEO of the West Chester Liberty Community Foundation said they undertook a community needs assessment a year ago and transportation was at the top of the list.

“What we found through both a qualitative process and a quantitative research process was that transportation, education and workforce development were the three main issues in our community,” Clemons said. “Transportation was the number one brought up by education leaders, business leaders, residents and unanimously across the board that this quality of life amenity was something that was needed.”

She said the Community Foundation wants to partner on this effort and the township can apply for a $30,000 grant from her organization as well.

Resident Barry Riddell said he is not against the trail per se, but he thinks the cost should be shouldered but entire region. He said he also can’t see how this trail could solve transportation issues in the township.

“Transportation, education, workforce training they are all noble causes and I would expect a charity to address those things,” he said. “But when I look at the transportation part, to be quite honest it looks like it was hijacked by cycling enthusiasts. Again the solution looking for a problem.”

A number of people said the trail is a luxury item and the trustees need to be mindful of the financial state of affairs both here and beyond — the grant is federal money — before they go down this path.

“My husband and I we do like bike paths, we do like walking and we love the Loveland Trail,” resident Lee Redkey said. “But we just want to make sure that you are fiscally responsible in providing a luxury item, when we know the federal government is in debt and we as a township are in debt.”

Welch has said from the get-go paying the price — there isn’t one yet on his plan — warrants the entire community’s voice through a tax levy request.

“Certainly something as big as $13.6 million, with the potential (to go higher) because the private property is not in there, that’s too weighty of a decision for three trustees,” he said. “That should go (to the voters)… A one-mill levy would raise about $1.95 million a year and would cost the average homeowner about $70 a year, that’s based upon a $200,000 house.”

Residents will have the opportunity to share their opinions with trustees during a work session about the bike trail. That work session will take place from 5 to 5:45 p.m. May 15 at Township Hall, 9113 Cincinnati-Dayton Road.

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