The City of Madison snuck up on me with some good bicycle news: at Monday's meeting, they approved expanding the bike trail! The commissioners want to take another swing at creating a dedicated bike path to Lake Herman State Park.
Lake Herman is the most logical destination for the next chunk of bike trail, and not just because I want another route to town (actually, for me, it'll probably still be faster to take the highway, so keep movin' over, you semis!). The path to Johnson's Point at Madison is great, but Lake Herman State Park is closer (two miles instead of four) and has more facilities (camping! canoeing! frisbee golf!). A Lake Herman trail is likely to be well away from Highway 34, making for a quieter ride. I'll bet if the city manages to build the Lake Herman extension, that trail will see twice the traffic the current Lake Madison trail gets.
So why didn't the city build the trail to Lake Herman in the first place? Well, they couldn't get the landowners between them and the lake to agree. As I understand it, my neighbor Lee Yager wants nothing to do with the project; nor did Mr. Pitts. Prairie Village didn't sound too eager about it, although I would think with their camping business incresaing, they might be more inclined now to support a project that would make them an even more attractive destination for campers.
The Lake County Commission also offered some resistance, fretting, I seem to recall, about liability issues. Liability? Lawyers, feel free to clarify for me, but does anyone worry about liability issues on the highway? When's the last time anyone sued the county for wrecking their car on a county road?
I do sympathize with landowners: if you don't want to sell, you shouldn't have to sell. Last time around, there was some talk about condemning the land to get the path built, but much as I love a good bike trail, and as good as it might be for the community, I'm still not ready to resort to eminent domain for recreation. Commisioner Dan Bohl does indicate to me that the city is unlikely to pursue condemnation this time: he says the legal proceedings to take the land might end up being more costly than just offering the owners fair market value in the first place.
So let the bicycles and the free market roll on this. The city has the money (at unless until President McCain comes and takes away their fedeal earmarks... oh, but wait, McCain is dropping in the polls, and Obama knows infrastructure projects create jobs!). Let's work with the landowners, give them a good deal, and make Lake County a two-wheelers mecca!
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