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Bike/ped plan makes stridesIdeas rolled in at a workshop on non-motorized transportation.
"The parking lot was full. Perhaps, as Mayor Dwight Sutton suggested, that was in itself a comment on the state of bike and pedestrian access around Bainbridge.I bet 90 percent of you had to drive here because there wasn't a bike path to follow, Sutton told an overflow crowd, at a workshop on non-motorized transportation planning at city hall Thursday evening.We hope to change that.The 100-person turnout surprised organizers, filling up the council chambers and spilling over into an adjacent meeting room.The event marked the formal kickoff of the city's new Comprehensive Non-motorized Transportation Plan, informally referred to as the bike/ped plan.Funded by a $35,000 state grant and contributions of $5,000 by the city and park and school districts, the plan will identify needed improvements for bicycle and pedestrian safety around the island. And for the first time, it will establish priorities and a timeline for projects, tying them to dedicated funding in the city budget.Thursday, Sutton called for participants to be free thinkers. And equipped with felt pens and large plat maps showing island zoning and roadways, the crowd obliged as ideas spilled forth.Participants identified destination areas such as parks, schools and commercial zones; routes frequented by bicyclists or pedestrians for commuting and recreation; and pathways, trails and informal shortcuts in popular use, regardless of whether they're actually dedicated for public travel.And each group identified conditions illustrative of the challenges the planning effort faces.North end: informal trails: One Hidden Cove-area resident identified a trail that links Sivertson and Manual roads.She conceded that the trail crosses private property, and that despite its popularity with pedestrians and those out walking their dogs, there is no right of access for its use. Just pointing it out, she feared, would result in the trail being closed off.If anyone asks, the woman said, You don't know my name.The disappearance of such trails as parcels are developed is a theme in the planning effort. The problem was echoed by a south-end resident, who said informal pathways in the Baker Hill area above Crystal Springs are disappearing as new homes go up.The last time my son tried to go through, he said, someone yelled at him and chased him off.Winslow: lack of connectivity: Suppose you wanted to walk from Winslow Way to the Village shopping area, avoiding roads.Every other block has a pedestrian path, residents noted, but they don't manage to link up. For example, pedestrians could walk up Madrone Lane - which has a dedicated pedestrian easement, even though it's technically a private road - and cross the farmers' market plaza. But the route runs into the mobile home park and other parcels - all private property.A block away, a pedestrian path connects Wyatt Way and Knechtel Way, but again, it runs into private property across the street.South end: unopened rights of way: Participants hailed the island's south end for its array of scenic waterfront bicycling routes, including Rockaway Beach, South Beach and Crystal Springs.But several potential links that show up on zoning maps are little known and have never been completed. For example, participants said, Marshall Road and Crystal Springs Drive are connected by a right-of-way that's never been improved; it includes a wooded trail that skirts the north end of Gazzam Lake Park. If completed, the route could take several miles off a bike ride from Crystal Springs into town. But the route has never been properly marked, and one neighbor said the way is now blocked by a fence put up by an adjacent property owner.Likewise, South Beach Drive and Beans Bight could be linked, but a key parcel was vacated to private ownership at some point in the past. Securing an easement and linking those two roads - even with a set of stairs up the hillside - would create a new scenic loop for hikers and bicyclists, some said.Common to all groups were complaints about the lack of bicycle lanes and safe shoulders. Miller Road and the Head of the Bay were cited as particularly poor for riders; Battle Point Drive, Sunrise Drive and Blakely Avenue were disliked by pedestrians.Springridge resident Nick Beer said he does the New Brooklyn boogie to the ferry terminal each day. His complaint: lack of maintenance of bike lanes, as he frequently has to swerve into the path of vehicles to avoid broken glass or debris.I guess I'm lucky, Beer said, because a lot of other commuters don't even have a shoulder to ride on.Beer's sentiments were echoed by Carl Morgan, a Baker Hill resident whose son commutes by bicycle to West Sound Academy in Poulsbo each day.At least twice a week, he comes back (having had) a near-death experience, Morgan said. It wouldn't take too many changes to make riding around here great, he said.There were success stories. Park board commissioner Ken DeWitt said a pathway now connects McRedmond Lane, off Wardwell Road, with the west end of the Grand Forest. The route includes a bridge that spans a scenic creek.The park district has had a standing trails committee for years, making ad hoc efforts to connect paths around the island, and DeWitt credited that group with the McRedmond link.Under the terms of the grant, the city must produce a draft plan by next June. Volunteers are at work identifying informal trails in their neighborhoods, while a steering committee is compiling the information generated at Thursday's meeting.A second workshop is planned, possibly after the first of the year. Comments should be sent to Marti Stave, long-range planner with the city.Park district planner Perry Barrett said now is the time to secure public access to paths and trails, before large parcels see further subdivision and construction.It's a lot easier to purchase easements from a couple of owners today, than a bunch of owners 20 years from now, Barrett said.City councilwoman Christine Nasser agreed, saying, You don't know what you've got until you start to lose it.So this is a perfect time for us to get together. "