Monday, October 19, 2009

Town: Residents happy with trails | | The Ithaca Journal

Survey: 81 percent say quality of neighborhood 'improved' or 'much improved'

By Krisy Gashler • • October 4, 2009, 8:20 pm

When a new walking trail is proposed in a residential area, the idea is often greeted by at least a few nearby property owners who oppose it based on fears of vandalism, noise, or trespassing.

But based on a survey of Town of Ithaca property owners living adjacent to the town's three major walking trails, those fears are largely unfounded.

The town's Trails Committee presented the results of a survey this week, which shows that 81 percent of people who live next to the trails believe their presence 'improved' or 'much improved' the quality of their neighborhood. Twelve percent said the trails have no impact, 6 percent said they 'worsened' and 1 percent said they 'much worsened' the neighborhood.

'As we're hoping to develop more trails in the future, we wanted to get a sense of how our existing trails were working,' committee chair and Town Board member Bill Goodman said. 'A lot of times when people first hear about a trail, they think of the negative things right away, you know, invasion of privacy, noise, litter, and so we wanted to see if those fears were actually well founded.'

In May, the town mailed two-page questionnaires to all 137 property owners who live adjacent to the South Hill Recreation Way, East Ithaca Recreation Way, and Northeast Ithaca Recreation Way. Ninety-five people returned the questionnaires.

People who live near trails use them frequently according to the survey -- 59 percent use them daily to four times a week and another 22 percent use them once or twice per week. Only three percent never use the trails.

Trails are used most often for walking (92 percent), bicycling (38 percent), running, and dog walking (both 27 percent).

The town asked people to rank various potential problems, unleashed pets, dog waste, litter, and noise, on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being 'no problem at all' and 5 being 'major problem.' The biggest problem was unleashed pets, with 19 percent of people ranking that 4 or 5, while 52 percent of responders said it was 'no problem.'

Goodman said the Trails committee hopes its survey will help provide some context to the discussion when the town looks to expand or create new trails, such as a walking trail the town hopes eventually to put in on West Hill. There's no defined pathway for a West Hill trail at this time, Goodman said.

The Northeast trail has existed since the late-1970s, the East Ithaca trail has been there since the 1980s, and the South Hill Recreation Way was completed in 1994, according to town Park Maintenance Manager Rich Schoch.

The town hosts an 'adopt-a-trail' program, whereby individuals can volunteer to pick up litter or plant flowers near trail entrances, Schoch said."

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