Editorial: Bike Path Getting Expensive

By / Editorials / Wednesday, 25 February 2015 05:00

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

The Town of Carolina Beach is planning to construct a 1.2 mile long Island Greenway bike path along the border of land located on the west side of the Island owned by the U.S. Army behind residential homes. The use of the word "Greenway" is appropriate in two ways. There will be trees along this path, and apparently money grows on trees if your the Town of Carolina Beach and there's a bike route happy federal agency ready to dish out taxpayer money that's not theirs to begin with. 1.2 miles paid for by a grant from the Federal Government in the amount of $586,031.00 with a local taxpayer wallet snatch of $146,508.00 to match the grant. That's 1.2 miles at a cost of $732,539.00. Another way of saying that is, just under three quarters of a million dollars. But wait! You haven't even heard the punch line yet.
In order to build this Island Greenway, the military will require the Town to install a fence along the path. That could cost anywhere from $106,938 for 5,941 linear feet of ugly chain-link three strand barb-wire topped fence to $302,991 for a more attractive black color rod iron style fence angled at the top. Either way, the military says the fence has to prohibit people from climbing over it to trespass on their property.
To recap, that's a new total of anywhere from $839,477.00 (Chain-link) to $1,035,530.00 (Ornamental, more appealing fence.)
The actual costs are estimates from the Town because there are several scenarios being considered for the location of the path and you never really know how much it will cost until you solicit bids from contractors.
The issue with location is because many homeowners in the Carolina Sands subdivision were originally told the path would run west of a retention pond behind their homes. Out of sight and out of mind. More recently (when land surveyors showed up) they were told the path would instead run on the east side of that pond directly behind their homes, and, get a look at this shiny new prison style fence the U.S. Army says has to be installed.
That didn't go over well with the neighbors. Can't blame them. Given the choice, no one on Council would honestly look another person in the face and say, "I'd love that! As a matter of fact, I'm installing one at my home tomorrow!"
Bottom line, if it's not already obvious, this "Greenway" is becoming an expensive endeavor that will get very little use in relation to it's overall cost. That's not including long term annual maintenance of both the path landscaping and eventual replacement.
If this Town has hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on a bike path or a fence that isn't a necessity, the first elected official that breaths the words "property tax increase" or "water and sewer rate increase" needs to remember where they should have spent that money before reaching into taxpayers wallets even deeper. Hey, they're putting in another path along Cape Fear Blvd. Grant funded with $425,639.00 and a local taxpayer match of $106,410.00.
Quality of life projects such as our numerous parks and other amenities are important for our community, but every penny adds up to a penny that won't have to be added to the tax rate later for things like beach renourishment, water and sewer projects, potholes, etc. But hey, potholes aside, you'll get a smoother ride on your bike on at least a few miles of Greenway!
Here's a current example of proper "quality of life" projects. Replacing the old oceanfront wooden boardwalk in the downtown Central Business District.
 We're a tourism-based economy. You have to spend money to make money. The area will look better, more appealing to tourists. Boost tourism, boost sales and room occupancy tax revenues that also help fund beach renourishment and the Town's general fund. It also helps spark new commercial development.
See the difference?

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