Cave Springs City Council freezes greenway plans

Posted: March 16, 2017 at 1:05 a.m.

NWA Democrat-Gazette/File Photo The Cave Springs City Council doesn't plan to build a trail connecting the city to the razorback Greenway anytime soon, aldermen decided this week.

CAVE SPRINGS -- The City Council on Tuesday unanimously froze Mayor Travis Lee's initiative to connect the city to the Razorback Greenway.

"They killed it last night. They canceled everything last night," Lee said Wednesday.

Lee brought forward a motion to have First Security Bank extend a line of credit to the city to provide matching funds for grants to build a trail to the greenway.

"We had to use our own money to get started," Lee said. "Some of the grants required it."

The council voted 5-0 not to take any action on the trail this year.

"We don't have any money. We don't have any money to match our end of it," Alderman Larry Fletcher said. "We just moved it to where we weren't going to take any more action on the trail issue in 2017. It's just being frugal."

Lee said eliminating action for the rest of the year kills the grants.

"It doesn't work like that," Lee said. "We have to do certain things by a certain amount of time. They just don't set there forever. Some of the grants have a September expiration date."

Building the trail would cost about $2.6 million. The city had approximately $1.3 million in grants, including $597,000 from two Transportation Alternatives Program grants, $350,000 from an Arkansas Regional Planning grant, $150,000 from a Blue and You Foundation grant and $150,000 from the Arkansas Heritage Commission, Lee said.

An undisclosed private donor would match the raised funds to round out the $2.6 million cost, Lee said.

"They said if can raise 50 percent we'll look at funding half of it," Lee said of the private donor. "They want us to connect to the greenway."

Some of the grants required the city to pay its own money into the project to receive the grant money. Whatever money was borrowed from First Security Bank to get the project going would have been paid back by other grant monies, Lee said. The city possibly would have to make interest payments, Lee said.

"Them saying we don't have any money is not an excuse anymore," Lee said of the council. "We had the bank that was going to cover us."

Fletcher said he didn't hear anything from Lee about the city borrowing money, but Lee is adamant he proposed the idea to the council.

"They didn't care," Lee said of the council. "They didn't want to put the work into it. They wanted to take the easy route out, and it's all because of politics."

On five occasions the City Council approved resolutions related to the trail, including a March 2015 resolution endorsing the Northwest Arkansas Bicycle & Pedestrian Master Plan and adopting a plan for Cave Springs.

The council voted down a proposal in December that would have enabled the mayor to have an environmental study done on prospective trail land. The proposal would have allowed the mayor to proceed without restriction, Fletcher said.

The trail to the Greenway has been a controversial issue in Cave Springs since August when residents of the Ridgewood subdivision learned a proposed trail route would run along their homes.

Tim Chasteen, president of the Ridgewood Property Owners Association, said in October that people in other cities with starter homes would probably be glad to have the trail, but people who buy the kind of higher-priced homes that are in Ridgewood are not interested in having a trail come through their backyards and cause privacy and safety issues.

The city came up with two alternative routes north of the Ridgewood route. The Ridgewood route would have been 10,032 feet and cost $1.99 million to build. The route directly north would have been 12,029 feet and cost $2.26 million to build. The northern-most route, which runs along Shores Avenue, would have been 14,669 feet and would cost $2.61 million. Each route would be 12 feet wide, according to Craig Southern, planning and zoning official with city's Planning and Development department.

Fletcher frequently expressed support for the Shores Avenue route. The Planning Department intended to recommend one of the trail routes.

Lee said a new alternative route was developed that would be across the street from Ridgewood. He said the route would have gone around Lakeview Baptist Church, 1351 Lowell Ave., and cut in between the Brentwood subdivision and Chev's Trucking & Topsoil, 650 Ford Lane.

"I talked to the owner of Chev's trucking and he was willing to donate the easement. The church was excited about it. They would have donated the easement. That would have been a great location," Lee said.

NW News on 03/16/2017