Trail Travail

A statement from TAMC about the ballot initiative says that if it passes, it would “make receiving grant funding more difficult for the entire region.”

On June 7, the fate of the Fort Ord Regional Trail and Greenway – aka FORTAG – will be on the ballot in Del Rey Oaks, a city with only 1,233 registered voters.

The initiative would preclude the construction of any developed trails in the city outside of Highway 218, Gen. Jim Moore Boulevard and South Boundary Road, which would effectively kill the first funded segment of the 28-mile FORTAG loop. The proposed loop would include 22 miles of new trail and is envisioned to connect the Rec Trail and Fort Ord from Del Rey Oaks to Marina.

On Nov. 16, the Del Rey Oaks City Council met and had the option to pass the initiative into law or send it to an election; the council, in a 4-0 vote, chose the latter.

“Not fulfilling a promise, and returning $10 million is a pretty significant black mark.”

Before that vote, City Manager John Guertin and City Attorney Alex Lorca outlined the various ways the initiative – if it were to become law – would impact the city’s general plan and future development, among other things. That assessment was grim: For one, there could be no new trails built in the city’s two parks, Del Rey Park and Work Memorial Park, the latter of which has sat woefully neglected for decades. The same goes for any future development that might happen on the city’s Fort Ord land.

Additionally, the report concluded, the initiative could harm’s the city’s ability to attract grant funding going forward – the state has already awarded a $10.3 million to fund the first trail segment, and that money would have to be sent back – and it could increase the city’s liability in the event a pedestrian or bicyclist are struck by a vehicle, when they could have otherwise been on FORTAG, which is almost entirely separated from the road.

“Not fulfilling a promise, and returning $10 million is a pretty significant black mark,” Guertin told the council.

There remains a controversy about which councilmembers should recuse themselves from voting on the matter based on living within 500 feet of the proposed segment, but in the end, only Kim Shirley recused. Scott Donaldson and John Gaglioti, who do live within 500 feet, did not recuse.

“From the time this was introduced, TAMC was aware of opposition that persisted as community meetings and workshops were conducted,” Donaldson said. “Knowing that overall situation, Del Rey Oaks was still chosen as the first segment, and all the chips have been placed on this little city. So whatever happens, I hope the final outcome is accepted by everyone involved and we can finally move on.”

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