The Prairie Village City Council on Tuesday effectively squelched the possibility that an eight-foot-wide section of concrete trail would be built along Somerset Drive from Franklin Park to Nall Avenue — a move that raises doubt about the viability of the entire trails system proposed in the city’s Parks Master Plan.
By a vote of 3-5, the council rejected a motion to include construction of the trail during the planned revamp of the Somerset Drive intersection with Nall Avenue. Councilmembers Michael Kelly, Ruth Hopkins and David Belz voted in favor of the motion. Dale Warman, Steve Noll, Andrew Wang, Laura Wassmer and David Morrison voted against it.
Wassmer, a chair of the city’s Parks and Recreation Committee, vocalized a number of the concerns councilmembers and residents had with the Somerset trail proposal. Specifically, she they didn’t approve of having to tear out a functional sidewalk in good condition, especially when replacing it with a wider one might damage mature trees.
“One of the things I hear over and over again from residents is that they moved here for the trees,” Wassmer said. “No one knows what happens when you do construction work that damages the root systems. What if we are trading eight feet sidewalks for our trees?”
The vote was a blow to proponents of the city’s proposed trails system in that it effectively killed the prospect of completing one of the most simple-to-build trail sections. City leaders had tentatively planned a series of trail construction projects that would have coincided with major road work along Somerset Drive, which would have had a fully functional eight-foot-trail running from Weltner Park on State Line Road all the way to the intersection with Nall Avenue within two years.
But since the council did not have enough appetite to undertake even the simplest of trail routes, it seems increasingly unlikely that more complicated trails projects — like a route along Nall Avenue or Roe Avenue that would impact dozens more homeowners than the Somerset route would — have much of a future.
City administrator Quinn Bennion said after the meeting city staff would be working with the mayor to determine whether staff needed to seek additional clarification about the council’s desire to pursue a trails system, which was one of the most highly rated items by residents in a major parks survey administered by the city a few years ago.
The City Council next month is likely to take up the Planning Commission’s recommendation that a proposed north-south trail route be left along Roe Avenue, and not moved to Nall Avenue, in the Parks Master Plan — though there are no plans to begin construction of that segment any time soon.