It can be hard getting something back in the bottle.
So much so that at least some in a group of about 30 neighbors at a Friday afternoon meeting with city officials seemed to concede that the city isn’t going to stop the construction of a long-planned, .6-mile segment of the CEMAR Trail on a city-owned railroad right of way that runs between their backyards.
If the construction, which was to start this week, proceeds, these neighbors wanted to know how the city would handle drainage issues in a spot that already had drainage problems and they wanted to know if the city would police the trail and if it would maintain it.
Sandy Mostaert, who has worked to rally the neighborhood between 20th and 29th streets NE in the Arthur School area against the project, said the city still had time to scrap it and ought to do so.
The 2.8-mile stretch of the CEMAR TRAIL to be built in Cedar Rapids will be constructed in three phases, with the phase in question, phase 2, being the first to be built because the city owns the former railroad right of way.
Mostaert, of 2012 F Ave. NE, and others pointed out that the city still had property to purchase for the other two segment of the trail, and so it wasn’t too late to rethink it.
Mike Dufoe, an engineer with the city and the trail project’s manager, told those who attended the Friday meeting that its purpose was to gather input from the neighbors to forward to the City Council.
The council approved a contract in the amount of $268,905 for the construction of Phase 2 of the trail in July without comment.
Neighbors began to object in recent days after they received a letter from the city in the mail alerting them that construction was slated to start on Sept. 7. The project is expected to take 35 days to complete.
Dufoe told the neighbors that as of now construction is expected to commence next week.
Both he and Jon Bogert, a consulting engineer with Anderson-Bogert Engineers and Surveyors Inc. of Cedar Rapids, agreed with a central complaint of the neighbors: that the city did not do enough to keep the neighbors informed about the project.
Both pointed out that the discussion, planning and design for the project had stretched over so many years and with an assortment of staff members, members of the City Council and members of the local regional planning agency, that, as Bogert put it, “We forgot people didn’t know about it.”
“We apologize,” he said.
One neighbor said a letter to neighbors even three months ago would have put them in “a much better mood.”
Some did not believe that trails are safe or that the Police Department had the ability or the inclination to make them safe.
Police Lt. Tim Daily disagreed, saying that the department put in a “lot of documented time” on the city’s trails. Daily, who said he did not think the Friday meeting should descend into a “rant-and-rave session,” noted that trails are “no different from the rest of society.” “Good people and bad people use them,” he said.
Brian Yancey, of 2160 F Ave. NE, suggested that the city issue permits for people to use the trails.
“Nobody knows this area better than we do,” he added. “We live there. You are breaking up a small little community.”
There was a quieter sprinkling of support for the trail, with one person saying that “most cities want nice trails.”
Gary Couch, who owns a house at 2600 E Ave. NE where he grew up, called trails like this “the coming thing.”
Some neighbors said they intended to go to a City Council meeting to voice their concerns. The current City Council and councils before them have been strong proponents of an expanded trail system in the city. The city has been working to achieve the status as a bicycle-friendly community.