Should Payson prevent people from parking cars in front of their houses to make way for a key link in the town's ambitious trail network?
That's the question that got eight mostly irritated residents down to a Rumsey Park ramada on Wednesday to give town officials an earful about the proposed signs and striping along a half-mile stretch of West Sherwood Drive and on existing sidewalks along North Oakridge Road and a portion of West Sherwood.
The town hopes to add the trail segments to fill a key gap in an ambitious trail system that would connect most neighborhoods in town to a network of trails in surrounding Forest Service land.
But the residents who showed up at the public input meeting in Rumsey Park were more worried about the lost parking and the strangers tromping and pedaling through the neighborhood than they were pleased at a chance to connect to the trail system.
Squeezing the trail designation into the existing street at minimal cost would force the removal of street parking on the south side of the portion of Sherwood that lacks a sidewalk. The narrow, uncurbed street has enough right of way to add a sidewalk or trail running alongside the street. However, half a mile of sidewalk would cost about $30,000, estimated Town Engineer LaRon Garrett.
The residents who showed up mostly didn't like the idea of losing street parking to lure outsiders into the neighborhood.
"I'd be very upset if you're telling me I can't park in front of my house," said Don Evans, who said he lives nearby.
"I don't understand why we have to even have an urban trails system."
Parks and Recreation Director Rick Manchester mostly simply listened to feedback from the residents, writing their complaints and suggestions on a flip chart.
But he told the mostly disgruntled residents that the town council had adopted a trails master plan that will create a 50-mile-long network of trails through town and into the forest lands beyond.
Town planners hope that the trails system will not only provide recreation for residents, but will develop into one of Payson's defining attractions for visitors. The section of the Trail along Sherwood and North Oakridge Road would provide key connections, both to a popular Rumsey Park trail and to the outer loop of the trail heading out toward the airport and beyond.
"The trails system is going to encourage tourism," said Manchester, "but the urban trails will be used primarily by local users."
He said that working the trail designation along an existing, relatively narrow, fully developed street like West Sherwood posed tradeoffs if the town wanted to get it done "for the least possible cost and least possible inconvenience."
The plan would bar on-street parking on the south side of the street and use painted stripes on the asphalt to create a narrow bike and hiking lane.
Evans objected to any project that would encourage people to walk through a residential neighborhood. "I don't want a bunch of people walking by my property, seeing what I've got, telling their friends. You can walk where you want now, why do we have to have a designated link?"
Moreover, he foresaw an onslaught of charity events, walkathons and other activities. "I have no doubt that it will become some kind of route for these events."
Manchester said no decision has been made and that residents' concerns would be passed along to the town council, which would make the ultimate decision.
"We know parking is going to be inconvenient," said Manchester.
"We also need to balance out community needs and demands. They're going to affect people -- and this may or may not be one of those things. We'll make a recommendation to the council -- and the council can adopt it, change it or do nothing."