While some residents attended the meeting in favor of the Bugline Trail Improvement Project, the overwhelming majority of area resents who came were — in a word — livid.
Citizens gathered at the in Sussex Thursday evening to meet with Waukesha County parks officials and members of the project’s design team. While there was no formal presentation, about 10 informational boards lined the room outlining specifics about the project, and residents could submit their comments on paper in a comment box.
Some of the first residents at the meeting were Menomonee Falls residents Jim and Bonnie Ziolecki, and they had no problem asking the almost 10 project officials the tough questions.
“Alright, so who woke up one day and said we needed to pave this trail? Name the person,” demanded Jim Ziolecki of a county official who was obviously caught off guard by the intensity of the question. “If it was the County Board, was there a public outcry to pave the trail? Answer my question!”
The county employee explained that the 26 board members on the Waukesha County Board made the decision to start this process in 2000. He also explained that 63 percent of the project is funded by federal transportation funds which will “take it off the taxpayer’s backs.”
“If it was the County Board, was there a public outcry to pave the trail? Answer my question!”
However, this irritated Ziolecki even further, who said the grant money is technically taxpayer money, and it only covers part of the cost anyway. In total, paving the 11.6-mile stretch of the trail will cost nearly $2.4 million. Of that, $1.5 million is funded by federal funds and almost $275,000 will be funded by state grants. Waukesha County residents will be directly responsible for the rest.
Menomonee Falls resident Dot Ruta also had no problem drilling the support staff. A crowd of residents formed around her and Dave Burch, the county’s operations manager, as they discussed the various reasons why the project was being executed.
Burch explained part of the reason was for accessibility issues. The FAQ sheet handed to every visitor says in 2010, the county adopted new regulations regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act, meaning they have to make the trail usable for everyone, including those with disabilities.
“I’m an older woman, and I walk on the trail, I bike on the trail, I have no problem on this trail.” Ruta said. “This isn’t being done because everyone wants it done. This is being done for just a few people. Wow!”
Residents watching the conversation began murmuring about how they think the county is using the ADA as an excuse to do the project. Others said describing parts of the trail as “washed out and impassable” weren’t true.
“This isn’t being done because everyone wants it done. This is being done for just a few people. Wow!”
“Hmm, I haven’t seen that ever and I have lived here 35 years,” Bonnie Ziolecki said.
However, there are some residents that came to the meeting in support of the paving project. Sussex resident Scott Bielski said he bikes on the trail often, and there are benefits to paving the trail.
“I want it paved so then I can use a better bicycle without worrying about getting limestone in my gears,” Bielski said. “I use my older bike on it now and I still have to clean out the gears when I’m done… Runners talk about the paved surface being hard on their joints, but they just need to invest in better shoes.”
Other residents agreed that paving it would be better simply because the county doesn’t invest enough into maintaining the limestone gravel. Maintenance is proven to cost less annually for a paved surface, as well.
Ask questions now; rally later
While residents asked questions, one in particular was letting people know about . Menomonee Falls resident Joan Griffin, dressed in a custom neon T-shirt, stood outside the library with her supporters gathering signatures and informing people about the rally.
Surrounded by supporters, Griffin said they’ve collected more than 700 petition signatures thus far to “Save the Bugline, Don’t Pave the Bugline!” Her campaign, called “Friends of the Bugline,” is planning a rally on Saturday at noon to show support to preserve the existing Bugline trail.
The group is meeting at the Menomonee Park Group Campsite at noon on Saturday and walking, running, riding and hiking east down the trail to Menomonee Avenue. They’re hoping to show county officials how many people are against the project.
“We’re pretty much set on the process of getting this done. We’re trying to work with people, but this is happening.”
However, it could mean very little to the county.
“We’re pretty much set on the process of getting this done. We’re trying to work with people, but this is happening,” said Waukesha County Parks Manager Duane Grimm . “There are certain groups out there trying to make it stop, but we’re in the process to do this work.”
Designing the details of the trail is expected to be completed by the end of this year. The almost four-mile stretch between Highway VV in Merton to Highway 164 in Sussex will be finished in 2013, and the eight-mile stretch between Highway 164 and Highway 175 in Menomonee Falls will take place in 2014.