No funds available for trails
The Leavenworth County Port Authority Trails Committee didn’t get its desired response Monday morning from the Leavenworth County Commission.
Members of the committee from Basehor, Lansing, Tonganoxie and Leavenworth attended Monday’s meeting to give commissioners an update on the progress of the proposed countywide trail system. The non-motorized plan was submitted to the Mid America Regional Council in 2009 for consideration in its 2040 project call. The project received a score of 69, which Victoria Rowley, Leavenworth County Development Corporation economic development coordinator and Trails committee member, said was a favorable score.
Rowley told commissioners the port authority had pledged $7,000 to the trails plan. The next step, Rowley said, was securing funds to hire a project engineer. Rowley estimated this would cost around $30,000.
Such a non-motorized system is in demand in the county, Rowley said, which is something LCDC discovered while visiting local businesses.
“I was hearing from businesses, ‘We need more trails for our employees and sidewalks to walk to lunch,’” Rowley said. “We know there’s a need and want for trials in Leavenworth County.”
Among benefits of a trails system Rowley listed were enticing new homeowners to the county, attracting more businesses and promoting a healthier lifestyle within Leavenworth County. In a survey the trails committee conducted, 60 percent of respondents said they would like a system of hiking, biking and walking trails in the county.
The commission was not as enthusiastic as Rowley about the trails program, saying it required money the county did not have and fulfilled a need that was less of a priority than others present in Leavenworth County at this time.
“It seems to me there’s a difference between quality of life and trails,” Commissioner John Flower said. “For instance, in your unscientific survey, did you ask them ‘Which of these five things would you like?’ I bet baseball parks and soccer fields would come in before trails. If you ask me would I like a park? Yeah. Would I like a pool? Yeah, I’d like a pool. I applaud your community spirit…and I don’t want to rain on your parade, but it’s going to be a long dry season.”
Flower and Commissioner J.C. Tellefson also addressed the long-term maintenance that would go into trails throughout the county and said the board would need more information before it could make any recommendations to the trails committee.
“This board can’t conceptualize what this thing will look like other than a black hole we’ll continually have to throw money down, and we don’t want any part of it,” Tellefson said. “The ideal would be (you showing us) this is how much this costs and it directly and indirectly affects these things. When we’re looking at (financial cuts to) mental heath, family practice, basic roads; the state isn’t going to do any road maintenance this year, and we want $30,000.”
The commissioners agreed to talk to Rowley about the possibility of a county staff member attending the trails committee meetings to learn more.
Also on Monday, the commission:
• Heard an update about the county’s guidance center. The center is struggling financially in lieu of cuts in the state budget that have significantly reduced its grants.
• Tabled, 2-0 with Commissioner Clyde Graeber absent, discussion about a grant application for the health department. Flower and Tellefson wanted to wait until Graeber could be present for the topic.
• Approved, 2-0, the minutes of the March 11 meeting.