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HomeNewsArchivesSt. Croix Bikeway Inching Closer to Start

St. Croix Bikeway Inching Closer to Start

(Greenways Inc. photo)A long-anticipated 14.5 mile St. Croix bike path from Estate Humbug to Point Udall has its initial funding, is in the final stages of acquiring right-of-way easements and permits and barring something unforeseen, should start “soon,” its advocates said at a town meeting Thursday.

The V.I. Department of Public Works hosted a public information meeting Thursday at the V.I. Department of Education Curriculum Center to offer information and get feedback on the almost-final plans.

“It was almost eight years ago that we began working toward this,” said Robert White, president of Cruzan Bikeways, Inc., a private non-profit organization he and others founded to promote, create and maintain the bike path

“We have spent several hundred thousand dollars, both in public and private money, to get to this point. … Now the entire thing is surveyed correctly and we know where every tree and turn and property line are located,” he said. “The government has been wonderfully behind it and we are very, very close.”

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There is about $6 million in Federal Highway Administration funding available for the first phase of construction, he said.

“This is not money being taken away from fixing roads; it is new federal money that can only be used for new construction,” he said.

The path was designed by Greenways, Inc. of Durham, N.C., which has planned and designed paths throughout the U.S. Greenways Inc. has put together a management plan for the path, and the Hovensa Refinery has pledged $125,000 – $25,000 a year for the first five years to pay for maintenance.

“That’s more than enough for what needs to be done,” said Charles “Chuck” Flink, owner of Greenways Inc. The management plan, along with information about this and other Greenways projects, are available at the company’s website, Flink said.

Many of the dozen or so residents at the meeting were property owners along the route with questions and concerns about the easement process and the planned bike path route.

“We are not taking any property, we are not taking ownership,” said White. “The additional right of way for the bike path is specifically and only for the bike path and not anything else.”

Neil Maher, Right of Way Officer with the V.I. Department of Public Works, is overseeing acquiring easements. According to Maher, the values of the easements for each property are being independently appraised and each landowner will have their own easement agreement and be compensated according to the slight impact those easements would have upon the properties’ market value.

Maher also emphasized that the easements would not restrict the landowners themselves, saying they do not affect setbacks for construction, prevent building access roads or limit home or other construction. “They will very narrowly defined,” Maher said.

Stephanie Gittens-Durham, a property owner along the route, asked about safety and whether there was any chance someone could be injured on the path and sue a property owner. Cruzan Bikeways Executive Director Robert Hoffman said there was no risk, pointing to a recent law passed by the V.I. Legislature specifically to protect landowners from liability for recreational use of their land.

“You have nothing to worry about,” Hoffman said.

Patricia Gittens, also a property owner, said she felt the path should not cross her small one-acre plot on the seaward side of the road, but instead should cross much larger parcels opposite from her. White said the other side of the road had a great many small plots too; that the path had to be on that side of the road because the terrain constrained it to that side for several nearby stretches; and for safety’s sake it was important to cross the road as infrequently as practical.

Flink said he would talk with Gittens-Durham and possibly the path’s route could be shifted a little to hug the road more as it crossed her property.

While plans are essentially complete, Greenway has to finalize its documents, Flink said. “There are still permits to be gotten,” he said.

Permits and plans will have to be in place and presented to the Federal Highway Safety Administration by Aug. 30, 2011 to take advantage of the funding that has already been approved, Flink said.

“Construction will probably take six to eight months from the date we get approval form the HWSA,” he said.

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(Greenways Inc. photo)A long-anticipated 14.5 mile St. Croix bike path from Estate Humbug to Point Udall has its initial funding, is in the final stages of acquiring right-of-way easements and permits and barring something unforeseen, should start “soon,” its advocates said at a town meeting Thursday.

The V.I. Department of Public Works hosted a public information meeting Thursday at the V.I. Department of Education Curriculum Center to offer information and get feedback on the almost-final plans.

“It was almost eight years ago that we began working toward this,” said Robert White, president of Cruzan Bikeways, Inc., a private non-profit organization he and others founded to promote, create and maintain the bike path

“We have spent several hundred thousand dollars, both in public and private money, to get to this point. … Now the entire thing is surveyed correctly and we know where every tree and turn and property line are located,” he said. “The government has been wonderfully behind it and we are very, very close.”

There is about $6 million in Federal Highway Administration funding available for the first phase of construction, he said.

“This is not money being taken away from fixing roads; it is new federal money that can only be used for new construction,” he said.

The path was designed by Greenways, Inc. of Durham, N.C., which has planned and designed paths throughout the U.S. Greenways Inc. has put together a management plan for the path, and the Hovensa Refinery has pledged $125,000 - $25,000 a year for the first five years to pay for maintenance.

“That's more than enough for what needs to be done,” said Charles “Chuck” Flink, owner of Greenways Inc. The management plan, along with information about this and other Greenways projects, are available at the company's website, Flink said.

Many of the dozen or so residents at the meeting were property owners along the route with questions and concerns about the easement process and the planned bike path route.

“We are not taking any property, we are not taking ownership,” said White. “The additional right of way for the bike path is specifically and only for the bike path and not anything else.”

Neil Maher, Right of Way Officer with the V.I. Department of Public Works, is overseeing acquiring easements. According to Maher, the values of the easements for each property are being independently appraised and each landowner will have their own easement agreement and be compensated according to the slight impact those easements would have upon the properties' market value.

Maher also emphasized that the easements would not restrict the landowners themselves, saying they do not affect setbacks for construction, prevent building access roads or limit home or other construction. “They will very narrowly defined,” Maher said.

Stephanie Gittens-Durham, a property owner along the route, asked about safety and whether there was any chance someone could be injured on the path and sue a property owner. Cruzan Bikeways Executive Director Robert Hoffman said there was no risk, pointing to a recent law passed by the V.I. Legislature specifically to protect landowners from liability for recreational use of their land.

“You have nothing to worry about,” Hoffman said.

Patricia Gittens, also a property owner, said she felt the path should not cross her small one-acre plot on the seaward side of the road, but instead should cross much larger parcels opposite from her. White said the other side of the road had a great many small plots too; that the path had to be on that side of the road because the terrain constrained it to that side for several nearby stretches; and for safety's sake it was important to cross the road as infrequently as practical.

Flink said he would talk with Gittens-Durham and possibly the path's route could be shifted a little to hug the road more as it crossed her property.

While plans are essentially complete, Greenway has to finalize its documents, Flink said. “There are still permits to be gotten,” he said.

Permits and plans will have to be in place and presented to the Federal Highway Safety Administration by Aug. 30, 2011 to take advantage of the funding that has already been approved, Flink said.

“Construction will probably take six to eight months from the date we get approval form the HWSA,” he said.