NIMBY Trail Problems

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?

Unjustified Fears

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?

About The Author

By Randy Rasa, editor/webmaster at Kansas Cyclist, the web's premier Kansas cycling information site, featuring authoritative guides to Kansas cycling clubs, bike shops, organized bike rides, touring, trails, and much more. [learn more]

6 responses to “NIMBY Trail Problems”

  1. I am a realtor in Massachusetts, specializing in the sale of residential property next to or near to rail trails or greenways all over the state. I am the 2nd top agent at one of the largest firms in western Massachusetts.

    My practice was featured in the National Association of Realtors Smart Growth trade magazine and was mentioned in United Airlines in-flight magazine–Hemispheres.

    The web’s best compendium of white paper studies and highly credentialed reports can be found on the website for the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail. [ ]

    Saying that living near or next to rail trail is a negative is just not true.

    Craig Della Penna Realtor®

  2. Randy says:

    An article in a similar vein from the WashCycle: The Trails-Bring-Crime Myth — “I think even the people who say they’re worried about crime aren’t really worried about crime, they’re worried about change and strangers in their neighborhood. Saying crime just makes them seem less selfish.”

  3. Randy says:

    Trail problems in Illinois: The Hennepin Canal Parkway State Park, a 104.5-mile-long linear park in northwest Illinois, is closing due to a budget shortfall. If the state allows the parkway, which received federal funds for its construction, to go into dispair, the federal government could withhold highway funds.

  4. Randy says:

    Study finds that Ohio bike trail boosts property values: “There’s a suburban legend out there that rail-to-trail conversions drive down property values. Propose a trail on an abandoned railway and you’ll hear fear and loathing from neighbors about loss of privacy, increased crime, traffic and noise, all which will affect property values.”

    The Little Miami Scenic Trail in southeast Ohio has proven to be an economic boon to businesses along its length, and single family home sale prices increase by $7.05 for every foot closer a property is located to the trail.

    “The finding that property values increase with proximity to the trail supports the idea that building bike trails are good investments for communities.”

  5. Sean says:

    “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.””

    Thank you– I’ve been saying this for years to little or no avail. Small-minded people want to believe what they want to believe and not amount of empirical evidence is going to convince them that they are wrong.