The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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February 11, 2014

Proposed Pittsburg trail draws criticism, support from neighbors

PITTSBURG, Kan. — In front yards along the west side of South Rouse Avenue, signs emblazoned with bold black letters leave no doubt as to some homeowners’ opinions: “Vote no on trail.”

One of those signs stands in front of Ken Waltrip’s home, where he has lived since 1993.

Waltrip and some of his neighbors are voicing concerns about a petition launched by other residents who want a multipurpose trail that would line the front of Waltrip’s and others’ yards.

The group, which has a Facebook page (Pittsburg Residents for a South Rouse Walking Trail), was formed last summer by residents who want to find a way to make the area safer for pedestrians, especially as south Pittsburg continues to grow.

Amy Hite, who has lived in a subdivision off Rouse for about nine months, said she runs three or four times a week. The first leg of three-quarters of a mile is treacherous, she said, because of the absence of a trail or sidewalk.

Hite said she has spoken with families in the area who have children who play near Rouse, a four-lane street that was previously a county road. Many of those families voiced similar concerns about safety.

Mile long, 10 feet wide

Pittsburg City Planner Troy Graham will soon apply for a grant from the Kansas Department of Transportation to help fund the trail. The grant requires that the trail, which would be about a mile long, be 10 feet wide.

The project would cost an estimated $900,000. The grant, if approved, would require a local match of at least 20 percent. Graham said the 263 lot owners in the South Rouse area would pay the remaining costs by forming a taxing district, similar to the way that neighborhoods might organize for sewer or water improvements.

“If you have got a majority of people wanting something, they can petition to get it,” Graham said.

If property owners are willing to pay more than the 20 percent share, it would improve the city’s chances of being approved for the grant, he said.

Last year, Graham said, the state had a $15 million pot of money for the grants, and Pittsburg received $720,000 for a separate connector trail. This year, there is an $11 million pot for two years of allocations, meaning there will be more competition for the money.

Currently, the petitioners are proposing a $300,000 match, Graham said, which would break down to $1,141 per lot owner.

The residents could pay that as a lump sum, or it could be billed by the county over 10 years to property owners, at about $114.10 per year.

The exact cost of the project would not be known until the work is completed, Graham said. That would be 2016 at the earliest, and then the interest would be determined. The city would be responsible for upkeep of the trail.

Graham said that if the city is approved for the grant and there is not an “overwhelming” amount of support for the trail, the city will not go through with the project.

In the meantime, a discussion is continuing along Rouse about the pros and cons of building the trail.

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