Hundreds of people jammed the community room at Palace Recreation Center Thursday to boisterously voice their support or opposition to a plan to put a regional trail down St. Paul’s historic Summit Avenue.
And while most of their arguments for or against the separated bike trail repeated what’s already been said at information sessions and open houses, the hearing before the Parks and Recreation Commission was the public’s first chance to weigh in. And dozens did — many to raucous applause from like-minded allies.
Perhaps the loudest and most sustained applause of the evening came from the anti-trail crowd, following a question from parks Commissioner Andy Flamm to Mary Norton, a city landscape architect with the Parks and Recreation department.
“You’ve done a great job of making a plan based on the initial assumption that a regional trail is wanted in the area,” Flamm said. “What I wonder is, was it ever determined that that’s what the residents of St. Paul want?”
A safer, separated trail is certainly what resident Will Mattessich said he wants. When he was younger, he rode his bike to his job at Grand Ole Creamery. Now, he commutes on Summit to his work downtown.
“I am very excited for the city to build this very common-sense plan for a safer Summit Avenue,” Mattessich said. “Summit Avenue connects us. Summit Avenue is not just an amenity … Summit Avenue is a transit thoroughfare, and the city has extensively studied the way people use Summit Avenue to come up with this way to make it safer for alternative modes of transit.”
But Gary Todd, a Summit resident, has opposed the plan since it was introduced a year ago. His group, Save Our Street, has repeatedly hammered their fear that construction of the bike path could jeopardize nearly 1,000 trees. City officials say their estimates show about 200 trees would be at risk.
On Thursday, Todd asked the city to pause its planning until questions about trees, safety and costs can be more definitively answered.
“Summit Avenue is too valuable an asset for the city of St. Paul and the state of Minnesota. You …
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