In 2012, the Town of Loxahatchee Groves attempted to obtain state grant funding for trail construction. The major problem with the grant application was questionable “site control” based on the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District’s 1918 easement deed. The next year, the district and town prepared a local bill to obtain sufficient site control to proceed with the trails. The bill was passed in the 2014 legislative session and became law on May 12, 2014.
To implement the law’s requirements, updated surveys and recorded maps of canal maintenance roads are required so that legally defined trails that qualify for grant funding could be constructed by the town and used by the public. The local bill also outlined other requirements — including a perpetual use permit — that would be included as part of an interlocal agreement between the district and the town.
An initial draft of the necessary documentation was prepared by the district in August 2014. Different approaches were suggested by the town. Final review and preparation of the interlocal agreement and perpetual-use permit that can be recommended for approval by the town council and district’s board of supervisors will be complete shortly.
During the process of determining a course of action and obtaining necessary legislative authority to implement recreational/equestrian trails in Loxahatchee Groves, Nina Corning represented equestrian interests in preparing background materials with the district and the town, and in discussions with legislators. Keith Harris had no recognized involvement in this process.
Keith Harris (and Virginia Standish) has, on several occasions, publicly criticized the LGWCD for delaying implementation of the trails. In October, the LGWCD extended Mr. Harris an invitation to a publicly noticed discussion with district representatives to clear up any of his issues or questions that relate to the district’s work regarding joint use of canal maintenance roads for trails. The discussion opportunity was approved by district board consensus during its October meeting, and would be videotaped for public access through the district and/or town web site. To date, Mr. Harris has not accepted the district’s invitation to resolve his (and Ms. Standish’s) confusion in a manner that would provide public transparency and understanding.
Implementation of the trails requires a cooperative effort between the district and the town. Balancing canal maintenance and recreation/equestrian uses, concern for adjoining landowners’ privacy, the need for continuous protective fencing, costs, grant applications and liability issues must be reasonably addressed. Mr. Harris has not shown that he is willing to participate in this process or to enter into balanced discussions on the issues. As such, it is doubtful that he (or Ms. Standish) would be an effective participant in the trails implementation process, if elected.
Over the past six years, Ryan Liang and Ron Jarriel have demonstrated a willingness and ability to work constructively and cooperatively in dealing with issues as they arise. They worked to gain support for the trails bill and continue to provide thoughtful, balanced, constructive leadership for our town. I am voting for Ryan Liang and Ron Jarriel, and I would encourage others to do the same.
John Ryan, Loxahatchee Groves
Editor’s note: Mr. Ryan is a supervisor of the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District.