Homeowners' Protests Prompt Trail Shift

Payson planners shift bike, hiking route from Sherwood to Airport after residents complain about loss of parking

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Who says you can't fight city hall?

Especially when the bureaucrats in question listen politely, thank you for your input -- and change their minds?

The current case in point involves a plan to put a key link in the town's trail system along one side of Sherwood Drive, which would mean a ban on parking on that side of the narrow, pine-shaded, curbless street.

After polite, but persistent, protests by Sherwood Drive residents, the town staff will instead recommend the trail link shift from Sherwood to Airport Road, a proposal that will go to the council for approval July 17.

Either way, the link would connect major sections of the 50 miles of trails ultimately intended to become one of Payson's major selling points -- to both visitors and active residents. Most of the trails will connect to existing trails on Forest Service land, but some of the trails cut through the heart of the town.

The idea behind the master plan is to create a trail network that will ultimately make it possible to safely walk, bike or ride virtually anywhere in town -- and to connect that in-town network to miles of forest trails leading along streams, through deep woods, past archaeological sites and out to key viewpoints.

So town planners sent out a notice to folks living along Sherwood Drive notifying them of the plans to ban parking on the south side of the street, to make room for some bright new road striping to make the route safe for walkers and bikers.

About two weeks ago, half a dozen anxious residents showed up to complain about the plan -- saying they needed parking in front of their houses for family and friends and expressing doubts about trails that would encourage riffraff and dubious pedestrians from strolling past their front yards.

An even larger number of people sent irritated e-mails or phoned the town's parks and recreation office, said Mary McMullen, the town's trails coordinator.

The only group of residents to support the plan, in fact, were in the Woodhill Homeowners Association, since that portion of the street has sidewalks and wouldn't lose its parking as a result of the trails designation.

"Primary concerns from both Alpine Village and Woodhill residents were the loss of parking on specific sections and how that would impact their ability to host visitors, service repairmen, etc.," wrote McMullen in a memo explaining the decision to shift the trails alignment.

In the new plan Airport Road will provide the key link to enable people to get to the existing trail network to the west of town. McMullen said this will have the disadvantage of not connecting popular trails in Rumsey Park at the north end to the town-wide trails network. However, McMullen listed a number of advantages, including:

  • West Airport Road already has sidewalks and bike lanes from North McLane Road to near where Sherwood will eventually connect.
  • Projects planned along Airport Road will give the town a chance to require developers to put in a meandering trail separated from the roadway.
  • The Airport Road link will provide a good connection with the western half of the trails system -- and residents won't lose any parking.
  • The route will pass through either commercial developments or recently traded Forest Service land, so they won't bother residential neighborhoods.
  • Many residents and visitors already use the sidewalks and bike lanes along Airport Road.

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