Cross-county trail's route through Haile creates controversy

Published: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 at 7:17 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 at 7:17 p.m.

The proposed path for a trail that will eventually stretch from Archer to Hawthorne has hit an obstacle in Haile Plantation, where some are worried about its effect on the neighborhood.

The Archer Braid Trail's current design has it running along Archer Road to Southwest 91st Street and north into Haile Plantation. The trail then would wind east along Southwest 46th Boulevard to Tower Road and north to Kanapaha Park before heading east along the north side of Lake Kanapaha and over Interstate 75 toward Butler Plaza.

The trail then curves north to Hull Road and through the University of Florida campus before connecting with the Depot Avenue Trail near Shands at the University of Florida.

The trail is meant to serve as a pathway for bicyclists and pedestrians. Not every segment of the trail is funded, according to information from the Alachua County Growth Management Department.

Completion still would be years away, although construction on the section now projected to run through Haile Plantation is expected to begin this upcoming fiscal year.

Complaints about the trail have nothing to do with the idea behind the pathway, just its current design.

County commissioners have been receiving weekly emails about the trail's path through Haile Plantation. Opponents say the county should not cut a route through the private neighborhood and worry that the trail will become a maintenance and safety issue for residents. But there also have been emails supporting the trail and its currently proposed route.

"This is a project that our community does not need or want," one resident wrote to commissioners. "Alachua County did not build or pay for the Haile Plantation community. The community should not be subjected to the issues of a public trail including additional traffic, more crime and more maintenance problems."

Another resident wrote, "Our community has been designed as a private community with private amenities, privately funded, privately maintained and set aside for the exclusive use of our residents. The Alachua County Public Works is not in a position to maintain the proposed section of the ABT (Archer Braid Trail) to Haile standards or assume the costs to do so. Therefore, the ABT would negatively impact Haile residents by adding the liability of maintenance of the trail, which would result in HOA fee increases."

One person, concerned that the trail could cause safety issues, mentioned the 2008 case of a woman who was attacked while running on a trail near the intersection of Southwest 46th Boulevard and 94th Street, near the entrance to the Indigo Square neighborhood. The case remains unsolved.

Hundreds of people participated in walks in Haile Plantation held in support of the woman in the case. Thousands of dollars also were raised to help her.

"I fear that a public trail would only entice other potential predators into the neighborhood," the person wrote to commissioners.

Some people, in their emails, proposed a route for the trail that would run along Archer Road and then Tower Road, instead of through the community.

Other residents, however, have sent emails to commissioners welcoming the trail.

One person said he decided to buy in Haile because he had learned about the trail coming through the area.

"I was excited to know I would be able to safely ride across town and connect with the Hawthorne Trail," the resident wrote. "I bet the business owners in Haile would also enjoy having greater connectivity."

Another resident said the path would promote business for the Village Center in Haile Plantation and provide residents with improved walking and biking access.

"Please do not be swayed by the NIMBY crowd and support what you have deemed best for the county, as is your charge," another resident wrote.

County staff answered questions about the trail at a meeting held in Haile Monday.

At Tuesday's special meeting, commissioners ended up discussing both reaction to the trail's proposed route and whether to keep the matter on next week's commission meeting agenda. Some commissioners expressed concerns about reactions to the trail and if there had been enough discussion with residents about the trail's path.

"We have an opportunity to take a step back," said County Commissioner Lee Pinkoson.

Acting City Manager Rick Drummond said that, based on the meeting in Haile and commissioners' comments, he was going to recommend that no action be taken on the alignment of the trail at the next commission meeting and direct staff to hold workshops where there will be a chance for more public input.

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