Easley council advances trail extension planning

By Jason Evans
Staff Reporter

EASLEY — Easley is proceeding with plans to extend the Doodle Trail into the downtown area.

But officials want the public to know those plans aren’t set in stone and that there will plenty of opportunity for public input as the plans move forward.

City council members discussed the trail extension at their September meeting.

The plan calls for Wilbur Street to become a one-way street, allowing trail users to travel down that road. The trail would bring them down Wilbur Street and through the nearby cemetery to the sidewalk in front of the Easley Police Department.

The trail’s portion that would run through the cemetery would be closed during funerals, with trail users encouraged to use a detour route to access downtown during those times.

That proposed plan allows the trail to be extended without forcing users to cross railroad tracks.Doodleinset

City officials had looked at building a pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks, but found the cost to be prohibitive. There was also no indication from railroad officials that they would allow a bridge to be constructed, city officials said.

City administrator Stephen Steese said the issue was put on the September council agenda to allow council to provide staff with guidance.

“To see if council wants to move forward with that plan, whether you want myself to move ahead and prepare a bid package to go out to bid,” Steese said.

During their August meeting, council members heard a presentation from Blake Sanders with Alta Planning and Design regarding the Wilbur Street proposal. Steese said he wanted to hear from council members now that they’ve had time to digest the presentation.

DoodleInsetGoodThe project will not just “automatically happen,” councilman Chris Mann said. “We’re going to take input.” Steese agreed. “This isn’t going to be a one-step project,” he said.

Even as the design-bid process moves forward, there will be ample opportunity for resident input.

“Looking at closing and going to one-way streets, there’s ordinances that have to go into place to get those done,” Steese said.

Those ordinances would have to go through the planning commission, building official Tommy Holcombe said.

“There’s steps in the process that would be going on at the same time while we’re trying to get everything out to bid to bring back to council,” Steese said. “What’s on the agenda tonight is to say this is what council wants to move forward with? Because if it is, there’s a lot of steps we’re going to have to get in place and lined up to get a timeframe together to start operating with the goal of trying to get it done sometime within the next six months or so.”

“We’re not voting on anything to make changes yet,” Mann said. “Because, honestly, those plans may change after some public input. We’re not voting to approve anything tonight — it’s more or less the blessing of council to begin the process.”

Councilman Thomas Wright wants the city to disseminate information to residents who might be impacted by the proposed street change.

Mann said he hopes those residents would attend the public meetings.

“We want to look at how we get information to them,” Mann said. “Get the word to the citizens, let them know there’s a meeting. We’re hoping that they would show up. If that’s not the case, we’ll address that. We definitely want to get the word to them. They are the ones most directly affected by what we may do.”

Holcombe said the planning commission would host the meeting and signage would be placed alerting residents to the meeting beforehand.

“It’s all a public, transparent process,” Sanders said. “It’s engaging the citizens, meeting with your constituents in that area. Showing them the proposed changes — rather than a pretty picture before and after, it’s actually showing them construction drawings, what it will look like. Being able to answer the questions of how will fire (fighters) access my home differently than it does now, how will EMS access, all of those certain situations and predicaments that homeowners will be in will be answered. Being able to answer those questions and work through those details.

Once work begins on the extension project, which is estimated to cost about $400,000, the work should be completed in three months.