Lebanon seeks to improve bike trail safety

Divided council approves $82,500 grant application.Opponents question route, cost of project.

The city of Lebanon is moving ahead with plans to make a proposed 330-mile trail network that was envisioned in the Lebanon Turtlecreek Trails Initiative a reality.

Despite objections from two members of the city council, city staff is applying for an $82,500 state grant to help acquire 0.2 acres on Deerfield Road.

The purchase would be the first step toward relocating a hilly stretch of the Lebanon-Countryside YMCA Trail off the road.

“Due to the significant traffic on Deerfield Road, and the steep hill, many feel that this section of the trail is unsafe and is certainly utilized less than other sections,” Deupty City Manager Scott Brunka said in a report to council.

The plan was originally envisioned for the city trail and re-emphasized through the regional trail initiative recently completed for the city and surrounding areas of Turtlecreek Twp.

“This is the missing link,” Brunka said during a Dec. 7 work session.

Ultimately the plan developed through the initiative calls for existing sections of trail in Lebanon leading out to new developments in Turtlecreek Twp., including a cheetah recovery center by the Cincinnati Zoo and a sports complex to be built by the county as part of the 1,400-acre Union Village.

On Dec. 8, the council voted 5-1 to apply for a grant from Ohio’s Clean Ohio Fund to help fund the land acquisition.

The council approved the application despite questions from Councilwoman Wendy Monroe about the steepness of the proposed reroute and the cost of the project.

“That seems significant to me potentially,” Monroe said. “Do we have any idea what that’s going to cost?”

While unsure of the final cost, Brunka said the city also expected to obtain grants for design and construction like other stretches of a proposed network mapped out during the initiative.

“There would still be some local match,” Brunka said.

The property, including a vacant house, runs between the Y and the neighboring Countryside development and a crossing of Deerfield Road winding to the historic downtown.

Property owner Ralph Saltsaver agreed to donate $2,500 of the appraised price, $93,500, but declined to negotiate an easement allowing the city to reroute the trail through the property.

“He felt like having a bike trail that close to rental property could impede his ability to rent it out,” Brunka said.

The Harmon Civic Trust, which helped fund the original trail development in Lebanon, has agreed to kick in $10,000, leaving the city to pick up about $10,000.

The Clean Ohio grant is the latest one sought by the city despite opposition from Councilman Steve Kaiser, who was absent during the final discussion and vote.

In the past, Kaiser pointed to the costs of maintaining the properties indefinitely since the grant comes with restrictions on sale for economic development.

Last week he joined Monroe in questioning the grade of the proposed reroute.

“We have problems maintaining what we have now,” he said.