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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Your Opinion: Eminent Domain for Madison Bike Trail No Go

Madville Times readers are apparently passionate defenders of property rights. Our latest poll asked "Do you support using eminent domain to extend Madison's recreational trail to Lake Herman?" The results:
  • Yes: 21 (27%)
  • No: 56 (73%)
If I were a Madison City Commissioner, I might well say, "That's that" for eminent domain on the bike trail. After all, if anyone is going to draw the sort of hippie socialist crowd that would favor seizing private property for the collective pedaling good, it's this blog. Yet even readers here appear to be saying a bike trail is not worth violating private property rights.

I'm still open to the argument that the social benefits of a bike trail outweigh private property rights in this case. But the city and trail supporters will have to work really hard to make that argument. In the meantime, let's offer all the landowners a more-than-fair price for the privilege of using their land. Let's give them ironclad assurances that state law protects them from liability (and that if state law doesn't, the city and county will).

And if the landowners turn down our offer, then we'll have to be content to find an alternative route.


  1. We went through a huge issue extending the bike path here in Vermillion (even after offering money for the land we were going to use). The discussion of Eminent Domain took place and we were warned that such cases rarely win or gain public support.

  2. I tend to agree. Eminent domain has its place for essential public projects. I have a feeling the city fathers will have a tough time arguing a Lake Herman bike path is such a project.

  3. "Essential" is a relative term. Would business benefit? I think so. Would Madison residents benefit? I'm sure of it.
    The bike trail is as essential as the park or the lake.

  4. Unfortunately the biking community is just too small. Eminent domain should really only be used when it will benefit the vast majority. While we bikers may say to ourselves that it will benefit everyone that is certainly not true. Most people don't bike.

  5. True, most people don't bike. The question is, how many would start if a bike trail went to Lake Herman State Park. The bike trail we now have is nice, but when you get to the end of the trail, what is there to do compared to Herman State Park. Just a thought.


  6. I agree a bike trail would be nice. But there have to be other ways to get from Madison to Lake Herman. Eminent domain should not be applicable here. Look at other options.

  7. Tony, I disagree that bike trails only benefit bikers. Take this blog post for example:


    This group biking to Lake Herman spent money at the state park plus a couple of meals in town. Building a bigger network of trails will attract many more bikers like these who are happy to spend money in town, which benefits everyone.

    I'm not saying that justifies eminent domain...just saying trails benefit every single person in a community.


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