Over the years, Kansas has had trouble getting trail projects moving. Both the Flint Hills Nature Trail and the Landon Nature Trail, for instance, have been delayed significantly in recent years, primarily due to “not in my back yard” sentiments from landowners along the trail corridor, who impede trail progress with frivolous lawsuits and pressure local governments to footdrag on the projects.
Meanwhile, trails like the Katy Trail in Missouri and the Cowboy Trail in Nebraska become successful and popular tourist attractions. Further afield, we hear about projects such as the Great Allegheny Passage in Maryland and Pennsylvania, which “has turned into a gold mine for communities who are watching money roll into their towns two wheels at a time. Time and time again it has been shown that rail-to-trail projects are a big draw for bicyclists, and longer networks like this one draw bike tours with people who need food and lodging.”
But all is not sweetness and light in the world of trail-building. Here are a few recent examples of trails facing troubles:
In Omaha, Nebraska, Neighbors Argue Trail Project Plans, and said they’re unhappy that the proposed route will come too close to their properties. The city’s Parks and Recreation director has tried to allay concerns by comparing the new trail plan to another recently-built trail, which was “initially controversial but now generates only compliments.”
Facing opposition from landowners, the Springdale, Arkansas city Trails Committee backed off on plans for a path along Spring Creek. Alderman Jim Reed said he understood the frustrations expressed by those whose properties would be affected. But he said they need to think about how the trail could enhance Springdale’s image. “I understand you, and I hear you,” Reed said to residents. “But what I hear is, ‘What about me ?’ But what about the city?”
In Heath, Ohio, a property owner along a controversial trail staged a showdown with crews paving the path, contending that the trail property, which is owned by a local non-profit foundation, should have reverted back to them after the railroad abandoned the train line. More: Protesters Block Bike Path With Rig, Wrecker, Bike path should be allowed to go forward
In Caroline, New York, Trail vote divides town board due to the opposition of a handful of residents who live along the proposed trail corridor, even though the abandoned rail line “is currently used by snowmobilers, all-terrain vehicle riders and horseback riders.”
In Bakersfield, California, the city is planning to tear up a 1.4-mile section of a popular paved bike path and replace it with a dirt road that would carry motor vehicle traffic.
In Sudbury, Massachusetts, So much for romantic visions of families bicycling together as a group of people rose up to oppose a rail trail. “They complain, to a ludicrous point, that dreaded masses of cyclists, joggers, and elders out for strolls will scare away wildlife.” They are “using the environment to cover up NIMBYism.”
In Miami, Florida, NIMBYs Fear Bicycle Path
It’s reassuring, in a way, to see that Kansas is not the only place affected by NIMBYism, fear-mongering, and plain old selfishness, but why?
A correspondent wrote to me awhile back, on the subject of trail opposition: “How is a trail different than a road or street, which nearly everyone has running along their property? Roads bring crime. Roads bring traffic danger. Roads bring noise and air pollution. Trails, by their very nature, present few to none of these hazards.”
He’s right. Criminals choose to do their dirty business where they can get away quickly, on a road. Trails, which are normally limited to non-motorized forms of transport, produce no pollution, no noise, and little traffic danger. And the proximity to trails raises property values!
Why are some people so short-sighted?