Saturday, July 4, 2020

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Moab, UT

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    City rejects public hearing request for bike skills park

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    There will be no public hearing on a bike skills park.

    A group of people stand in a circle at Millcreek Parkway
    City officials met with supporters and opponents of a long-planned bike skills park at the proposed location on the Millcreek Parkway Monday. Photo by Doug McMurdo

    For those who were surprised such a park was planned for Millcreek Parkway, don’t feel alone. Most of the people who live next door didn’t know about it either until they read about it in The Times-Independent.

    A few of them requested the Moab City Council hold a public hearing on the issue during an onsite gathering Monday with the city’s top executives and Council Member Mike Duncan, representatives from the city’s Engineering Department, Maddie Logowitz of the Grand County Active Transportation and Trails Division, Sara Melnicoff, former City Community Development Director David Olsen, Kaki Hunter and other private citizens who stood both in opposition and support.

    Duncan said he would ask the Council to hold the public hearing on Monday, and did so at Tuesday’s meeting. While the item was not on the agenda, the council discussed the issue at length during Mayor Emily Niehaus’s routine report on what she’s been up to since the last meeting two weeks earlier.

    While no vote was held, there was clear consensus a public hearing would not be held after Members Kalen Jones and Karen Guzman-Newton and Vice Mayor Tawny Knuteson-Boyd spoke against doing so, essentially arguing it’s too late to reverse course. The project has been designed and the next phase is construction. Grant funding has been accepted, the city committed $30,000 and up to $10,000 a year in annual maintenance.

    It’s important to put the issue in context.

    Virtually everyone likes the idea of a bike park that could be used as a safe training site for young children, but not everybody is enamored with the location. Melnicoff, Hunter and most neighbors cite the parkway’s original intent, which was to be a place of quiet meditation. Now they worry it will become a tourist magnet or otherwise lose its charm.

    They were angry they had no idea the park had even been planned until recently, when in reality it was approved more than a year ago when former City Manager David Everitt did so on an administrative level, bypassing the public process because the law allows city managers to spend up to $50,000 without getting approval from elected officials or hearing from the public.

    Member Rani Derasary said the council might want to revisit that spending limit, especially since the council has recently committed to being more transparent. She also echoed what many of the project’s critics have said. “I’d like to hear all this happened correctly without any input,” she said. Niehaus agreed. “We all wonder, what is our role?”

    City Manager Joel Linares wholeheartedly concurred. “It’s clear to us public hearings are important,” he said. “Just because they’re not required doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have one.” Linares also said in addition to the spending limit is the fact the city did not transfer the land, which would have triggered the need for a public hearing. He made it clear that “nobody did anything wrong. It was all done within their authority.”

    Olsen at Monday’s gathering on the parkway had a different take. Largely credited with being the force behind much of the areas trails, Olsen said when he worked for the city he avoided public input as much as possible because “it’s the only way you could get anything done.”

    Melnicoff, who has been involved with the creation of the parkway since 2004, said she was “100,000%” opposed to the location and that she would “do everything in my limited power to stop it.”

    Those who support the park point out the location was specifically chosen to give young children a place to practice biking, with their parents supervising and without having to drive far. The relatively nearby Anonymous Park and its BMX track would not work due to cost and the geographic layout.

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