Runners who like the feel of gravel under their heels have joined the opposition to a plan to spend more than $3.3 million to pave the Bugline Trail in Waukesha County.
The long-planned project has moved into the design phase, with the heavy work set for 2013 to 2014, despite the divide among users.
The Bugline, a 14-mile path on an old railroad bed, is now crushed limestone for all but two of its miles from Menomonee Falls to the Village of Merton.
Plans to pave it have been studied since 1990, and been approved in the county budget.
Earlier this month, the County Board's Finance Committee authorized a $120,000 contract for the planning and design - including holding a public meeting to get feedback. The date for that hearing has not been set, but it’s likely to be contentious.
Dan Held, an elite runner from Pewaukee, has opposed paving the 16-mile trail in the past, and continues to view it as a mistake. The work to widen and pave the trail will require dozens of trees to be removed and ruin the natural look and feel of the Bugline, he said.
“I guess what upsets me most is that our government officials and decision makers should be doing what is in the best interest of it's citizens,” Held said. “There has been no public outcry to have this paved and there truly is no reason to spend the tax dollars on a project such as this, especially at a time when fiscal restraint is on everyone's mind. There is no need, yet, like it or not, we are getting it.”
County Supervisor Jim Jeskewitz disagrees.
In a story posted in the Sussex Patch, Jeskewitz said the paving would make the trail more accessible to users.
“The amount of participation almost doubles on the other paths that we’ve paved throughout the county,” Jeskewitz said. “Mothers can push buggies and people can roller blade.”
In an online survey posted by Patch, opponents outnumbered the paving proponents two-to-one. It should be noted that the sample size was very small, roughly two-dozen votes.
More than $2.1 million in state and federal grants has been awarded for the work, and $675,000 was spent on the Bugline from 2002 to 2005.
UPDATE: We've posted our own poll on the Bugline paving issue. You can vote here or, as always, voice your opinion in the comments section below.