Thursday, February 17, 2011

Powder Mills Park Master Plan

Tonight I attended a public meeting the auditorium of Park Road Elementary School in Pittford for the Powder Mills Park Master Plan. I saw the notice for this meeting in the Tryon forums. I actually don't know much about that park. I may have been there for a work or family picnic, but I don't really recall.

Just like with the Ellison Parks Master Plan, a whole environmental survey is being done. That work appears to be very thorough and is quite impressive. They've cataloged the plants and wildlife in the park, mapped the trails and features, and bascially surveyed everything and anything in the park.

The presentation portion of the meeting spelled out the time-line and general ideas of the plan. It described the existing features of the park, but the details of what will be changed are not yet decided. That's the purpose of the open discussion that took place in the second half of the meeting. This is the time to make suggestions that will shape the park for the future.

Just like with the Ellison Parks, the goal for the off-road cycling community is to establish shared-use trails.

There were comments and questions about many topics, but the off-road cycling shared-use issue came up many times. It sounds like this park is more heavily visited than Tryon or West Bay. Hikers say bikers go too fast and will run into them. They claim they can see the erosion caused by bikes currently riding there illegally. Same arguments, different park.

Given that the off-road cyclists have been given access to Tryon and West Bay for an 18th month trial, I have doubts that the county will be opening up Powder Mills Park for cycling. The plan and work for this park is expected to be completed by the end of this summer. That means it will be finished before the 18 month off-road cycling trial which won't even officially start until sometime this spring. So it seems premature for the county to open Powder Mills up for cycling.

On the one hand, with the current trial period, the higher pedestrian use of Powder Mills, the concerns of the hikers at this meeting, and my lack of experience in this park, I'm less inclined to work for shared-use in this park. One the other hand, I can imagine a future where off-road cycling in any county park is just a given. It would be awesome to just grab my uni and head to any county park knowing there will be some trails available to ride. If it's accepted and understood, and not illegal, maybe there would be more respect between hikers and cyclists.

One idea that a mountain biker suggested was to get creative with sharing. Maybe some trails are shared-use and others are not. Maybe some are hiking only or cycling only. Maybe the park allows cycling but only on certain days. I like the idea of finding some way to compromise so we can all enjoy the parks.

But for now, with the Ellison Parks off-road trial about to be kicked off, maybe what's important is to be sure the master plan doesn't preclude off-road cycling in the park in the future. Though I can't think of anything that really would.

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