Tuesday, Jan 23, 2018
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Our Town Going Out

Riverfront path sparks some concern


Charles Pfleghaar views the Maumee River from the backyard of his home on West Front Street in Perrysburg. He is unhappy about city plans to to pave and light a path along the river.

The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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As the first phase of a multi-use path along the Maumee River in Perrysburg is completed, riverfront residents are concerned about what they'll see in their backyards once the project goes forward -- or, rather, eastward.

The goal is to connect access all the way from Fort Meigs to Hood Park, city officials said, but they insist nothing is yet set in stone.

"We're at the tail-end of the brainstorming process," said Brody Walters, deputy planning and zoning administrator.

Residents said they were part of a discussion about a year and a half ago when the path was first imagined but feel a little left out of the loop now.

"Since then no one has heard one word about anything," said Katina Holland, who lives at 335 West Front St.

City administrator Bridgette Kabat said a draft design is due from the firm Harley Ellis Devereaux of Southfield, Mich., in a few weeks and that it will be open for review.

"The public is going to be re-engaged," she said, adding that any plans still need city council approval.

A series of asphalt-paved switchbacks were completed recently to get pedestrians, joggers, and bicyclers from roadway level to ground level on the west side of the Maumee-Perrysburg Bridge.

Many of the next-step concepts that were floated in August, 2011, are still on the table, and they are intended to enhance the riverfront and make the valuable asset accessible to the whole public, Ms. Kabat said.

"We're looking for ways to provide for the citizens to be active and enjoy their community," she said.

Those ways indeed could include a wide, paved, lighted path that helps connect several points of interest, Mr. Walters said, including Fort Meigs; Orleans, Riverside, and Hood parks; boat docks; the historic downtown area, as well as the Wabash Cannonball Trail and Maumee River footpath.

Plans also could include improved dockage, an amphitheater for stage performances, and wireless Internet access so that joggers and bird watchers could use popular apps for their smart devices, he said.

Some residents who live along Front Street also own land parcels that are along the old Water Street, which is still city property and is a grassy path that effectively cuts through their backyards.

The path already is open to the public, Ms. Holland said, and people like the area for its undisturbed feel. She said eagles and other birds fly over from the little islands between the Audubon Islands Nature Preserve and her riverbank property, and deer often wander through the area.

She said plans to pave the path seem commercially driven rather than environmentally conscious.

"That doesn't sound like a trail to me," she said. "That sounds like an ulterior motive, to get from one parking lot to another."

Neighbor Charles Pfleghaar, who lives at 401 West Front, is worried that the city is encouraging people to use the path at night by lighting it, when area parks close at dusk.

"It's scary," he said about people walking past the back of his house or even wandering into his yard.

Mr. Walters said the path would function similar to city sidewalks, which the public can use during dark hours. Lighting is intended to increase safety on the path, he added.

"The more activity you get to places like that, the less problems you have," Mr. Walters said.

The project is being envisioned as a wide, paved path to accommodate any emergency rescue vehicles that may be required and so that the Perrysburg Police Department's bike patrol can ride on it, the planning official said.

Mr. Pfleghaar said city officials told him the lighting would be as unobtrusive as possible, perhaps a newer kind of LED lamp that has proximity sensors to operate dimly and brighten when someone approaches.

That's still going to ruin the aesthetic and river view for which he and his neighbors paid premium, he said, and he wanted his family to be able to enjoy both the beauty and security of the area.

"We're hoping to spend the rest of our days here," he said of his wife, 4-year-old daughter, and 4-month-old son.

He said he understood the city's charter has indicated since 1816 that the riverfront was intended for public use, but that the decision to plot the area for private residences should be respected as well.

Mr. Walters said the city was being sensitive to all aspects of the area.

"Resident concerns are very, very high on our priority list, as well as the environment and the security of the people using the path," he said.

David Hoffman, vice president of Historic Perrysburg, said the city had made a dutiful assessment of the area's historic properties and that he was impressed with the project.

"It takes advantage of us being on the river. ... It can just vastly improve the Perrysburg experience," he said.

Contact Rebecca Conklin Kleiboemer at 419-356-8786, rconklin@theblade.com, or on Twitter at RebeccaConklinK.

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