In January, Waukesha County Parks Manager Duane Grimm made it pretty clear that a plan to was set in stone. However, that isn’t stopping one Falls resident from attempting to put the brakes on the project.
Joan Griffin, who lives a few blocks from the trail, started gathering signatures from residents opposed to the project and want to keep the crushed limestone trail as is. You may have recognized Griffin if you were in Falls or the Waukesha County Expo recently.
Griffin and her husband were the couple wearing the neon signs that read “Save the Bugline, Don’t Pave the Bugline.”
“Personally, I am outraged at the idea of paving it. I love the way it is right now with its natural look of a trail. It’s not supposed to be a road,” Griffin said. “There are so many reasons not to do this.”
The trail improvements are part of the plan, and pertain to 11.6 miles of the Bugline. The original cost was pegged at $3.6 million with county’s the share estimated at $1.6 million. The rest of the project would be funded through state and regional grant programs.
However, the most recent cost estimates from the county are significantly lower at a total cost of $2.4 million. Federal funding would cover $1.5 million, and $272,000 in state grants would cover another portion. The county’s share would be roughly $630,000. Grimm wasn’t immediately available to explain to reduction in cost.
The project would be completed in two phases. In 2013, the county would complete phase one of the project, which is the 3.6-mile trail section from highway 164 to Lake 5 Road. The remaining 8 miles would be paved in 2014.
More than just the money
No matter the bottom line, Griffin said her opposition to the paving project is about more than just the initial price tag. She said paving would detract from the natural beauty of the trail, maintenance costs would increase as the pavement deteriorates, and the trail wouldn’t be as accessible for horseback riders. She’s also concerned that snowmobiles would destroy the paved surface, and would eventually be restricted from the trail.
Griffin has collected more than 200 signatures attending just two events. She said the primary reason she hasn’t collected more is that her time is limited between work and other obligations. She has created an email account, firstname.lastname@example.org, to solicit feedback and show others how to get involved.
“I don’t have more signatures because it’s just me and my husband and no one else helping me,” Griffin said. “I know there would be a lot more signatures if more helped with petitions.”
She could be right. According with more than 500 responses, 72 percent of respondents were opposed to the project — although the poll is unscientific.
It's about accessibility
County officials have said the goal of the paving project is to increase the trail’s accessibility for parents with strollers, rollerbladers, and handicapped individuals. It is hoped the paved path will increase usage and prevent washouts following heavy rains that occur with the current crushed limestone surface.
“The amount of participation almost doubles on the other paths that we’ve paved throughout the county,” said County Supervisor Jim Jeskewitz in a previous interview with Patch.
In the long term, county officials want to expand county trails and create linkages between the Lake County Trail, Bugline and Glacial Drumlin Trail.
However, not all county officials are on board with the paving plan. County Supervisor Robert Hutton has opposed the project from the get-go. Hutton said he has received a significant amount of feedback from residents whose concerns about the project range from fiscal responsibility to preserving the natural beauty of the trail. Sutton was one of two supervisors to originally vote against the project.
“People are wondering if this is a good use of money in the current economic state,” Hutton said. “Maybe we hold off on these types projects until the economy turns around. People enjoy its current state.
“I think it’s appropriate for residents to continue to call the park directors so they can hear their concerns.”
The County Board’s Finance Committee recently approved $120,000 for the designing and planning portion of the paving project. Grimm said officials are meeting with the design team this week. He added that multiple public hearings will be scheduled later in spring for residents to weigh in on the plan. However, those dates have not been set.
In the meantime, Griffin will continue to rally support to stop the project.
“I would love to see it go to a referendum vote and let the people speak on what they want done with this trail,” Griffin said.