Yes to Archer Braid Trail, but not in Haile Plantation

Published: Sunday, May 6, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 at 11:05 p.m.

After reading the April 20 Sun editorial, “Bikes Belong,” about the Archer Braid Trail and reviewing the remarks made at a recent County Commission meeting on the same topic, the boards of the three Haile Plantation homeowners associations wish to restate our position in support of the Archer Braid Trail, explain our opposition to the unnecessary and expensive proposed path through Haile Plantation and to correct some misconceptions.

Foremost, we are not opposed to the Archer Braid Trail. We simply believe it is a more inclusive path if routed down Southwest Archer Road to Tower Road. There is no compelling reason to route it through Haile Plantation.

The Archer Road to Tower Road route costs significantly less and will include more residential communities, shopping centers, schools and cultural areas. And it will still include the Haile Plantation community.

Both The Sun editorial and the commission comments miss this central point: If the path does not go through Haile, it will still exist, and it will serve the greater Alachua County residents who wish to ride it. It will simply go down Archer Road to Tower Road and beyond.

While it has been stated that public input on the matter has been taken “for nearly a decade,” very little input has actually been solicited from the Haile Plantation community, whose residents will be most affected by this regional bike trail.

County staff did hold a public meeting in Haile Plantation's Hall in 2008 to address residents' concerns regarding the use of the private power line trail. Those in attendance provided staff with input and the vast majority were opposed to the path under the power lines.

Haile's three boards of directors never heard of the project again until 2012, when we learned of county plans to bring a 10-foot wide asphalt multiuse path down Southwest 91st Street. and Haile Blvd.

Of the speakers at the commission meeting, some were not current Haile Plantation residents, and many have never lived in Haile. Some identified themselves as members of the Bicycle Pedestrian Board, the Gainesville Cycling Club and the Citizens Advisory Board.

We hope the majority of county commissioners will give full weight to Haile residents, as this regional bike trail will bisect our community and affect us where we live.

We've heard this path described as “similar to a sidewalk that will be used predominantly by Haile residents.” But from what we've seen through online research, this path will be a regional bike trail that is part of the Alachua County Mobility Plan.

Once complete, this Archer Braid Trail will be heavily advertised on city of Gainesville and Alachua County websites as a public trail that could be ridden by Alachua County residents and visitors to our area. It also will be listed on many bicycling websites throughout the state and the country as a paved “bike able” trail. Simply Google “bike trails in Florida,” and you'll see this has the potential to be one very heavily used trail.

The bicycle groups would like to ride through Haile Plantation because it would make for a beautiful ride; we can't argue with that. However, we are very concerned that our beautifully treed, natural entrance roads will suffer aesthetically by the installation of this 10-foot wide asphalt path. And the homeowners whose homes back up to the proposed path will lose the enjoyment of their private, now quiet backyards and could suffer some loss in property value.

At a total estimated cost of $1.3 million (Haile Braid Section), utilizing Tower Road would save taxpayers this added expense. Moreover, the additional bike traffic will add congestion to our major internal intersection at Southwest 91st St. and Haile Blvd., which is currently a very busy four-way stop.

Routing the trail through Haile just doesn't make financial or safety sense.

We're excited about the Archer Braid Trail and believe many of our residents will use it. However, we respectfully disagree that the route should come through Haile Plantation because of the likely negative impacts outlined above.

Karen Woolfstead is president of Haile Plantation Association. Don Braswell is president of Haile Plantation West. Craig Carty is president of Haile Village Center Owners Association.

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