Opinion

Dead ends are where you find them

Perhaps nowhere is the idealized vision of Bainbridge Island more colorfully manifest than along its remaining country lanes.

Everyone has a few favorites – Mandus Olson Road flanked by horse pastures, a handful of shady streets in the Eagledale and Manzanita neighborhoods, pastoral Island Center Road, narrow and winding Spargur Loop. Walk or bike such placid byways on a summer afternoon, with the sunlight dappling the ground through broadleaves above, the crunch of gravel underfoot, and the mind can easily drift back a decade or five.

It is “rural Bainbridge Island” at its least diluted.

Kallgren Road has always struck us as one such lane, a Rolling Bay byway that rambles northward from Valley Road before petering out into a mere trail. True, the evolving demographics of the island are changing the neighborhood character a bit; toward the end of the lane, older homes give way to a new grove of McMansions. But it’s still an inordinately pleasant area, and a safe bypass for walkers and bicyclists who want to avoid busy North Madison.

These days, its quietude is imperiled. As chronicled Wednesday, the city is considering opening the Kallgren Road right of way through to Day Road, to serve several new houses and improve general traffic circulation and fire access. Unhappy at the prospect of suddenly seeing thru traffic in front of their homes, a group of neighbors took their concerns to the City Council this week.

There, they were rebuffed on the grounds that the issue is a matter for the city engineering department, the administration and, ultimately, a hearing examiner to resolve. “The only thing the council can do in this particular instance is mess things up,” one councilman quipped.

Readers can feel free at this point to insert their own punchline. We happen to applaud the council’s restraint, since by their nature, legislators everywhere poke their noses into any issue where they see political advantage. (If you doubt that, just pray you’re never reduced to a vegetative state in Florida.)

Most curious was the insistence from the dais that it’s not the council’s place to decide the opening and closing of individual roads. That should come as a surprise to the city engineering department, given that any consideration of joining Ericksen Avenue and Hildebrand Lane in Winslow has been blocked by just such a council-imposed policy. The Ericksen-Hildebrand opening can be discussed only “at such time as the City Council requests the issue to be reconsidered,” according to the island-wide transportation study adopted in 2003.

Which sets up a curious circumstance in which the council may sit back and watch one of the island’s more picturesque rural lanes become ravaged, while at the same time obstructing the connection of a key transportation corridor in the middle of downtown.

Odd.

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