ORANGE — Safety was a top concern of residents who voiced support for a proposed recreational trail on Orangewood Drive during a virtual webinar last week.
About 23 residents expressed their opinions during the Feb. 3 virtual event with 17 people in favor and the rest against. Mayor Kathy Mulcahy said 52 residents expressed support for a trail through emails and other communications prior to the webinar. She heard from 10 residents against the trail extension including names on a petition circulated through the neighborhood.
Orangewood Drive resident Jamie Schorr said that he has lived in the neighborhood for 31 years and served on the board for the homeowners association. He said that he has seen “an incredible number of near misses” as he walks and rides his bicycle.
“When a car is parked in the road, it creates an inherently dangerous situation that these trails will eliminate,” Mr. Schorr said. “To me, it’s not a question of if it’s going to save a life, it’s just a question of when.”
Mayor Mulcahy said that while the village was planning for Pinecrest, the $230 million mixed-use shopping district at Harvard Road and Interstate 271, Council President Brandon Duber had a “brilliant” idea to assess Pinecrest $5 million for trails on the main streets throughout the village.
The trails are complete on the main roads and there is $410,117 left. Mayor Mulcahy said that there have been discussions about trails in the Orangewood subdivision since the early 1990s, but it was always cost-prohibitive because the residents would have to pay for them. The proposal now comes at no charge to residents.
The trail would affect 34 parcels out of 219 residences in the development. The trail would be 5 feet from the curb and it would be 5 feet wide on the south and east sides of Orangewood Drive. Village Engineer Brian Mader said this will not have the “meandering” appearance seen in the other trails, which are curved instead of straight like a sidewalk. The location of the trail, he said, is ideal so it will not interfere with most mailboxes and landscaping.
“I’ve been going to the Orangewood homeowners [association meetings] for 25 years,” Mayor Mulcahy said. “I’ve been going to your picnics every year and our police chief has been contacted multiple times every year, as am I. The one continual concern in the Orangewood development for all that time is safety.”
Residents supporting the trail during the webinar also expressed concerns about reckless drivers and other safety issues for pedestrians potentially using the trail.
Orangewood Drive resident Ron Kluchen said although the trail would impact his property, he supports the proposal. As an architect, he has worked on property development projects in various cities where sidewalks are required.
Beechmont Oval resident Elin Meyer said that she walks with her dog daily with both donning flashing lights at night, but still there was a time when a car almost hit them. If there have not been accidents involving pedestrians, Ms. Meyer said, it is because they are “diving” off the streets to avoid drivers.
“We’re fools if we turn this down,” she said.
West Ash Lane resident Ira Goffman said that the trail would be built in his side yard. He said that safety has not been an issue in the development and children play on the side streets rather than Orangewood Drive, which connects Harvard to Lander Road. Mr. Goffman said property owners could be named in a lawsuit if someone trips and gets injured on the trail. Law Director Steve Byron said that because it is a trail, not a sidewalk, the homeowners are exempt from liability, which falls on the village instead.
“I question whether we’re really respecting what everyone decided when they moved here,” Mr. Goffman said, adding that “219 people chose Orangewood for their homes” in an area with no sidewalks and “could have chosen any other development.”
Orangewood Drive resident Lee Friedman said that he “takes offense” with people at the meeting who said that it is selfish to oppose the trails. The people who are in favor of the trails, Mr. Friedman said, would not have them in their front or side yards. He said that the village should do a survey and see if the residents on the north and west sides of the street would be less opposed to the trail impacting their property, then move it to the other side.
Beechmont Trail resident Peter Turner said that he had concerns when the homeowners association built a trail near his property leading to the playground and tennis courts. Now, he said that the trail is “wonderful” and he welcomes another trail on Orangewood Drive.
The final decision hinges on a vote by Village Council.