The Wellington Village Council took part in a “Directions Workshop” on Friday, April 26. Several important discussions occurred in the early part of the day regarding expanding the village’s system of pathways and trails, as well as discussing equine waste disposal.
Both matters are important to Wellington residents and the equestrian community. The pathways and trails serve horse riders, bike riders, walkers and now the consideration of golf carts.
Equine paths do not allow golf carts or motorized vehicles. But the widening of sidewalks to 12 feet could create a mutual place for bikers, walkers and golf carts, intertwined on pathways throughout the village, except on South Shore and Forest Hill boulevards, where there is not enough room to widen the area.
Village Manager Paul Schofield began the discussion by addressing the pathways and trails.
“One of the things that will come up later is golf carts,” he said. “Even if we allowed them to be operational within neighborhoods, you cannot get from one neighborhood to a place you want to go. So, the question is, what do we want — 8-foot, 10-foot or 12-foot pathways?”
This is an issue that encompasses far more than equestrian areas and gated communities.
“The broader discussion brings us back into the urban core of the village,” Schofield said. “What we are looking at is to create biking lanes on Aero Club Drive. We have just applied for grants on Greenbrier and Greenview Shores. Once there is a major loop created, does the council want to move forward with bicycle paths on every roadway, or do we change our focus to do a multipurpose pathway that can get you from your neighborhood to a school or to a shopping center? Most of our residents are not going to ride in bicycle lanes, but a 12-foot-wide multipurpose pathway that can get pedestrians and golf carts to points of interest or to the shopping centers — this may be something to think about.”
Councilman Michael Drahos asked for an update on the village’s equestrian trails.
“Are we finished, or do we have further trails that we want to create?” he asked.
Schofield said that most of the trails are completed, although there are some that could be added.
“It is, predominately, an improved project,” he said. “There are trails that we would like to complete. But for the most part, the major trails we have done are completed.”
Drahos wanted a more specific look at what trails staff believes are still needed.
“What I am looking for today, are there any equestrian trails that we can identify that have yet to be built and are necessary, and if so, how much is this going to cost the taxpayers?” he asked.
Assistant Planning, Zoning & Building Director Michael O’Dell has overseen the equestrian trail project.
“As you may know, we recently received an easement agreement for the bridle path on the Yellow Trail on the south side of Pierson Road, between South Shore Blvd. and Santa Barbara Drive,” O’Dell said. “We look to improve that trail. So, the program we have now, we are looking at what other roadway improvements we need. We are looking at some curbing on the south side and improving the footing and rebuilding the fencing. Right now, we have a budget of $250,000.”
The focus now, O’Dell explained, is making the trails more user-friendly.
“There are other connections we can make throughout the village,” he said. “The rest of the improvements we are making right now are more related to use.”
Drahos asked for input from others regarding the financial impacts.
“From a policy perspective, what I am looking for in terms of my colleagues is whether or not we want to continue to spend this kind of money,” he said. “I think $250,000 for Pierson Road is an important connection point, and not much room to quarrel with that. But, do we want to continue to spend six figures on bridle trails, or do we want to look for other opportunities to improve landscaping throughout Wellington.”
Mayor Anne Gerwig said that the focus should be on the ability to move around the community.
“What is happening, in my opinion, is we have dedicated trails, Paddock Park to Saddle Trail, where they are just dedicated horse trails. The rest of these are sort of naturally occurring situations,” Gerwig said. “Now, as we see, Rustic Ranches wants to get to the show grounds. That’s what has driven the whole other discussion of connection. So, those kinds of processes are going to continue as the equestrian community changes. That needs to be weighed-in heavily with advisors in the equestrian community. I know that we have a lot to get through, but in this regard, when it comes to equestrian trails, we need to rely on equestrians to tell us where the pieces are. I don’t think any of us are out there riding the trails.”
O’Dell said that the focus has been in and around the show grounds.
“The highest concentration is over by the show grounds. Over the last 10 years, we have been focusing our efforts on that area. The Blue Trail, which is Paddock Park and Saddle Trail, is all complete. The connection into Paddock Park is complete and everything around it. So, the only thing we have left is the Dark Green Trail, which is the C-4 Canal, which comes up the eastern side,” O’Dell said. “Once our canal maintenance is finished, we will complete the trail system.”
Schofield explained that plans are underway regarding Rustic Ranches.
“The C-23 Canal, along Flying Cow Road, was the pathway designed to get folks from Rustic Ranches connected to the show grounds,” he said. “Most of our trails are on canals or rights of way. The ones we own that are public are inside the South Trail.”
Schofield said that there are some areas of the trails that could be taken over by the village as dedicated trails, which property owners may dedicate. The liability and the maintenance would then become the responsibility of the village.
Later in the morning, the council turned to the topic of horse waste.
Equine waste and the solution to take it out of the village without residents being disturbed and keeping the agricultural waste from leaching into the waterways or illegally being dumped is a concern to many residents, as well as village officials.
“This is a super difficult issue for many reasons,” Gerwig said. “Manure is an agricultural byproduct… We can’t say this is how it will be picked up and handled within the village. Right now, you put your garbage out on the road. We have it contracted for someone to pick it up and take it away. We can’t do this with manure.”
O’Dell said that the village doesn’t even have complete control over garbage collection. It can only supply the service.
“In the municipality, we can require by state statutes that household waste, if you wanted it picked up, can be put on the curb on certain days. We cannot actually require the homeowner to do this; he can take his waste to the landfill,” O’Dell said.
Schofield said that manure’s status as an agricultural byproduct makes it more of a challenge for disposal, although the village does register manure haulers and regulate how manure is stored and handled while on private property.
“There is a state law that says we cannot franchise this. We cannot tell them how to collect it or where to dispose of it,” Schofield said. “We cannot regulate how they do it. Our equestrian community has done an amazing job disposing of their agricultural waste. It is just problematic for us when they are using 18-yard dump trucks on Aero Club and Greenview. Then we get residential complaints.”