HUDSON — On the same evening they canceled the plan for the third phase of the Veterans Trail bike and hike trail project, council members said they would like to discuss the city’s connectivity plan in greater detail at an upcoming workshop.
Council on Tuesday voted 6-0 to terminate a $1.29 million contract with Eclipse Company LLC and return a $500,000 grant to the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) in connection with the planned Veterans Trail Phase Three project.
Assistant City Manager Thom Sheridan said the city would have to pay "tens of thousands of dollars" to Eclipse.
Veterans Trail Phase Three was planned as a multi-purpose path between Veterans Way Park and Barlow Road that would run along the west side of Ellsworth Meadows Golf Club behind homes on Nicholson Drive. The project would have included a multi-use asphalt path, an on-road path, storm drainage improvements, grading, bike lane striping, a traffic calming feature, tree removal, and a boardwalk and bridge replacement.
The legislators canceled the project after multiple residents (many of whom live on Nicholson Drive) objected to the proposal. Residents opposed the planned removal of about 200 trees, noting their privacy and safety would be affected. They said the trees are a barrier to errant golf shots from Ellsworth Meadows, and while they agreed the current trail should be extended, they did not favor the wider, paved path.
Instead, they said they wanted: a smaller gravel path; a new bridge for Cascade Park; no tree removal; and drainage and runoff issues addressed.
City staff will meet with residents to put together a scaled-back version of the plan and return to council with the proposal.
Nicholson Drive resident Tim Drake told council he wants all involved parties to work together on an alternative plan.
Mayor Craig Shubert said he felt a compromise could occur where "the trail does get some enhancements" such as a new bridge at Cascade Park, more gravel to improve the trail bed, and an extension to Barlow Road. He noted there is also interest in creating better connectivity to downtown.
"Hopefully all of this will come together in a nice, new connectivity plan in the months ahead," Shubert said.
Meanwhile, Council members Hal DeSaussure (At Large) and Skylar Sutton (Ward 3) said they wanted to discuss connectivity issues at an upcoming workshop, but had different reasons on why they wanted to review the matter.
DeSaussure said the park board pursued bike and hike connectivity in the city and to places such as Akron, Cleveland, Kent, Canton, Massillon and New Philadelphia. A subcommittee was formed in 2015 to focus on providing bike and hike trails for "alternative means of transportation," and for community recreation, according to DeSaussure.
While noting he favored canceling the contract, DeSaussure emphasized the envisioned trail "was a collective effort over at least a decade of work." He said he wants to "continue the idea of making a connection" from Nicholson Road to a path that connects through park land to Cascade Park.
"If we don’t do that, then we might as well nix phase four, we might as well nix phase three and phase one and simply take Hudson out of the connection issue," said DeSaussure. "… I hope this council doesn’t go down that road."
Sutton said residents he’s spoken with want connectivity "within Hudson" rather than to travel to other cities.
"Most of my ward can’t get to downtown Hudson at all," said Sutton. "There is no connectivity. There are no sidewalks. There are no trails. I have neighborhoods with hundreds of homes that have no access to downtown. Those folks aren’t interested in trails that take them out of Hudson. They want things that take them deeper into Hudson."
Council member Chris Foster (Ward 2) said he appreciated the Nicholson Drive residents sharing their concerns and offering alternatives that would still allow connectivity to occur.
Foster clarified the width of the trail that was envisioned in the plan that Council was about to reject.
"This is a 34-foot wide path," said Foster. "This is not 10 feet. It is 10 feet to 14 feet of paved surface, plus 10 to 12 feet on either side of cleared trees. This is something like 80 percent of the woodlands behind this property … I think there are better ways of spending our connectivity dollars than this."
Council member Dr. J. Daniel Williams (At Large) said he had "a lot of sympathy" for DeSaussure’s perspective and noted he served on committees discussing connectivity issues. He said he felt the city needed to take a "second look" at the connectivity plan and added he believed the intended plan for phase three along Nicholson Drive was "overkill."
"We need to continue to talk about connectivity and specifically the Nicholson trail," said Williams. "I would hate to see it just wander away."
Council member Katherine Schlademan (Ward 1) thanked city staffers for their "quick response" in organizing meetings with residents and working on "finding a solution that will hopefully work for everyone."
Council member Beth Bigham (Ward 4) said she felt council was "doing the right thing in regards to the residents. I’m very thankful for the way that you all have been so reasonable and sensible in expressing your concerns in such concise and objective ways."
Council approves more money for road projects
Council on Tuesday approved adding $1.15 million to the city’s concrete overlay program. This money became available after the 2019 general fund carryover balance ended up being $1.15 million higher than originally projected.
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, email@example.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.