By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
An Island resident is touting another alternative for the West River Connector Trail.
Call it Option 5 or the Share the Road plan, but Bonnie FitzGerald of West River Road hopes her alternative is a workable solution for the issue that has divided the town government and residents.
At a Grand Island Town Board information meeting on the West River Connector Trail Oct. 6, held at the Grand Island High School's Grand Viking Theater, FitzGerald made a presentation of an alternative plan for the trail that she called Option 5, or Share the Road. It's an idea she saw put in place when she lived out of state, and she feels it would work to solve the issues surrounding the state's preferred option for the West River Connector Trail, Option 3, which most West River Road residents oppose because it would close the West River Parkway to cars.
"Philadelphia uses it on Martin Luther King Parkway. They 'Share the Roads': commuters Monday through Friday, and then it's closed on some weekends 7 a.m. on Saturday to 7 p.m. on Sunday April 1 to Oct. 31, and then the parkway as normal during the winter months," FitzGerald explained. "This way the hunters and the snowmobile riders, it wouldn't interfere with their schedule." ...
Approximately 350 people attended the meeting Oct. 6. Many filled out a questionnaire describing their favorite option, second favorite option and the option they opposed most. The results showed the attendees overwhelmingly opposed the state's preferred option 3 which would close the parkway to vehicular traffic.
"It works," FitzGerald said of the Share the Road plan. "It's actually the least expensive of all of them, because all it is is repaving the road." She said the option could include resurfacing the overlooks and paving paths down to the water's edge for the disabled, as well as some moveable barriers.
"That's all you need at the eight entry points to the parkway," FitzGerald said. "Nothing changes. You're not adding more parking lots; you're not adding restrooms. You're not doing anything but just repaving it, which you were going to repave it to close the parkway. ... No trees are being cut down, nothing's changing, commuters still get to use it Monday through Friday, and then April 1 through Oct. 31 weekends it goes to pedestrians, for bicycles, strolling, rollerblading, walking your dog, whatever you want to use if for. Just no cars."
FitzGerald said Nov. 1 through March 31, "it's parkway as normal for hunters, snowmobilers, anybody else. Just use it as normal."
Support for such a plan would also illustrate what West River homeowners have said all along: "We were never against the bike path," FitzGerald stressed.
FitzGerald praised Deputy Supervisor Jim Sharpe, who chaired the Oct. 6 meeting, which was an official Town Board work session called by Councilman Mike Madigan. Sharpe was "very professional," FitzGerald said. "It was very well run."
Madigan has proposed option 4, which includes a path closer to West River Road, but maintains the parkway at the status quo.
Town Supervisor Nate McMurray declined to attend the Oct. 6 meeting and instead attended a shadow meeting at the DeGlopper VFW Post at the same time. He wasn't missed at the Grand Viking Theater.
"People actually got to speak their minds, pro or con," FitzGerald said. "The tone of the meeting wasn't hostile."
FitzGerald said "350 showing up on a Thursday evening, I call that successful."