Monday, October 17, 2011
Proposed Plano golf course walking trail poses safety, practical concerns
Anyone walking on the trail would likely have to dodge golf balls during their strolls.
Brian Bullock has been a Chase Oaks resident for nearly 12 years, and with his house abutting the Chase Oaks Golf Course, he has learned to accept the occasional stray golf ball that winds up in his backyard.
However, Bullock and several neighbors do feel a bit uneasy about the prospect of putting a public walking trail between their backyards and the fairway.
"The easement is owned by the city, a fact that nobody informed us about (upon purchasing our homes)," Bullock said.
Last month, the City of Plano publicly proposed its plan to construct a walking trail connecting Oak Ridge and Vineyard drives running directly behind 19 residences within the Chase Oaks neighborhood on the north side of holes 15 and 10.
The city is currently working on an interlocal agreement with the City of Allen that would allow Plano to pay the $242,000 that came from 2009's bond election to install the 800-yard trail extension while the golf course is currently closed for renovation.
"The City of Plano seems to have ignored one important fact -- the safety of anyone walking the trail once the golf course reopens," Bullock said. "The trail will be adjacent to the fairway with golf balls traveling in excess of 100 mph, with no protection for those walking the trail. We are talking about squeezing a walking trail into an area of not more that 25 yards between a dangerous golf course fairway and 19 private homes."
Some homeowners claim finding anywhere from 20 to 50 golf balls in their backyard per week, said Chase Oaks Home Owner Association president Eric Chamberlain, a hazard he fears may not be eliminated with low level fencing and landscaping alone. In addition to safety issues, Chamberlain said residents are also concerned about how their level of privacy and, in turn, their property values may be jeopardized.
Vandalism, crime and trash were also potential what-ifs expressed by the residents, Chamberlain said.
Plano Chief Park Planner Robin Reeves met with Chamberlain and other Chase Oaks residents recently and said the trail connection is one of the few gaps in the city's trail system that need to be filled in order for it to be considered continuous. While most of the residents' concerns are valid, Reeves said, feedback from those homeowners with trails running behind their backyards are surprisingly favorable; however, none of these trails run along the edge of a golf course.
"The feedback we have received is that they like having a trail there," Reeves said. "The extra people going by adds a certain sense of security to them."
According to its original design, the proposed trail will be lowered several feet in an effort to protect trail users. Berms on the golf course side of the trail will be topped with four to five foot holly bushes, red cedars and live oaks. In theory, Reeves said, such would more than likely affect residents' views.
"This is a very legitimate concern they have, we'd like to find way to protect the trail user and preserve their views (at the same time)," Reeves said. "We don't know answer yet but it will be difficult to do both."
The planning department will be spending the next several weeks looking at other alternate routes to make that same connection, either through the golf course or along the roadway. The department will present its findings to the Parks and Recreation Board on Nov. 8.
Reeves said in the meantime he is open to feedback. Chamberlain said he plans to present a petition expressing these grievances to the Park and Recreation Board and the Plano City Council on Oct. 25. The City Council is scheduled to vote on the trail connection at its regular Nov. 28 meeting.
"Nothing has obviously been built yet and nothing has been tied in stone and maybe the homeowners feel it is," Reeves said. "We need to explore our options."
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