For a number of years, Treasure Valley residents have enjoyed a unique amenity the Garden City Nature Path. Its ironic that something designed for tranquility and community has become a source of conflict and division, and needlessly so.
Virtually everyone agrees that the ultimate solution to a continuous, safe, shared-use Greenbelt path is a multiple-use bridge connecting the established north side transportation corridor to its south side counterpart. Garden City has made good on its promise to the community the West Bridge has been funded by a $727,000 grant and is slated for construction in 2013. ACHDs recent unveiling of its plan to pave the south side Greenbelt from Garden City to Eagle Road further affirms the assertion that the existing south side transportation corridor is the solution.
Problem solved, right? Not exactly.
On Nov. 6, or earlier for absentee voters, residents will vote on Garden Citys Initiatives A & B, which mandate the conversion of the tranquil Garden City Nature Path to a multiple-use, transportation corridor. The explicit wording in Initiatives A & B requires the path to safely accommodate all non-motorized vehicles. While some claim that the path is safe for multiple use the way it is, this simply is not so.
Garden City understands the legal and public safety requirements governing multiple-use paths, and commissioned an independent engineering assessment to determine the actual burden that would be placed on the taxpayers of our city. Garden City would be exposing itself to liability if the standards are not adhered to. The path, as is, is not safe for combining pedestrians and bicyclists and is impassable for rollerblades, scooters, wheelchairs or other non-motorized transportation. Large roots, narrow passages and bridges and washout areas pepper the path, creating hazardous conditions for multiple-use functions. For those being told otherwise, please visit the path to see these conditions for yourself.
In light of the changes required by the proposed initiatives, Garden City had the duty to assess the financial impact that residents would incur for the overhaul of the Nature Path. The independent Land Group analysis estimates costs of more than $1.143 million for the city to comply with the initiatives. That represents approximately 15 percent of the citys entire annual general fund budget. A major tax increase will be required should these initiatives pass.
Based on the results of the independent feasibility study, the Garden City City Council urges voters to beware of the price they will pay if Initiatives A & B pass. These are the facts. $1.143 million equates to a one-year, nearly 40 percent increase in residents property taxes. These costs will be borne entirely by Garden Citys 12,000 residents.
This expense is unnecessary. When the West Bridge is completed, cyclists will be able to ride from Lucky Peak to Eagle without ever having to cross a street. Garden City will have spent $2 million in the last six years to connect vital sections of the Greenbelt.
The Garden City Nature Path is enjoyed by walkers, runners and nature enthusiasts from all over the Valley. Boise residents are very protective of River Runs Bethine Church and Harris Ranchs Dallas Harris Walk, and for good reason. Garden City, too, has every reason to celebrate tranquility as a public asset. The tranquility that the Garden City Nature Path provides will be destroyed forever if Garden Citys Initiatives A & B pass.
Now that the access issue for the cyclists is solved, its time to consider protection for pedestrians, preservation of wildlife habitat and avoidance of a costly and unbudgeted outcome for Garden City taxpayers if these initiatives should pass.
Mike Moser is council president and Pam Beaumont, Kathleen Simko and Jeff Souza are council members of the Garden City City Council.