Wednesday, January 19, 2011

NIMBY Attacks on Concept Development Study For Ocean City Trail

In December we posted an article about a proposal to build a bike route on the south side of Ocean City. The goal of the study is to look at options to extend the Haven Avenue Bicycle Boulevard to the South end of the Island to the shared use path at Corson's Inlet.

One part of the study is looking at the feasibility and environmental impacts of converting of the abandoned Seashore Line railbed to a shared-use path. The railbed is located on a raised causeway through the wetland area on the bay side of town. The second part of the study will look at options for the best on-road route on one of the three parallel streets - West, Asbury and Central Avenues.

A group called Friends of the Wetlands (FOTW) is seeking to stop the $87,000 Concept Development study. Earlier this month the group staged a protest of the study. The group is vehemently opposed to the shared use path alternative and are getting the word out through the press. There are unconfirmed reports that the state bike ped office is receiving more than 30 emails a day opposing the study. It is not known if FOTW has ever conducted a similar campaign against the wetland impacts created by the construction of the new Route 52 Causeway.

Oddly enough the study if completed could be FOTW's best weapon to keep the issue from arising again. In a quote from an article in the Ocean City Gazette - "Sam Lavner of Ocean City, an advisor to FOTW, called the bike path 'the zombie issue that keeps haunting the town. It’s been brought back to life twice, but it refuses to die.'" As long as there is no hard proof that a trail cannot be built visionaries will continue to see a stunning bikeway there.

It should be noted there is no money set aside to actually build anything , Ocean City will have to seek funding for design and construction. The design process will trigger more opportunities for input and a full environmental review of the project will be required.

FOTW's spokesperson Irene Lorenzon has spoken favorably about most talked about alternative route in the study - West Avenue. This would involve taking away at least one traffic lane and creating a two way cycletrack on the west side of West between street parking and the curb. It's a great option that will also improve pedestrian safety and calm traffic albeit less scenic.

While it is very likely that some FOTW members are genuinely concerned about the impacts others may be simply using the group's platform to oppose a trail they can see from their backyard. One writer noted in his letter that "...residents in the area whose property values and privacy would be threatened have opposed such projects". That is a common NIMBY argument for any shared use path and a possible signal of the reaction to a West Ave alternative.

Opposition to the West Ave Cycle Track may be much broader. Not every Shore resident is environmentally sensitive but most of them are very sensitive to perceived traffic impacts. Furthermore NJ DOT traffic engineers have traditionally been very reluctant to reduce lanes to accommodate bicycles especially on arterial roads.

View Ocean City Proposed and Existing Routes in a larger map

Bicyclists who want to see the shared use path option given a fair shake need to speak up. Ocean City deserves credit for not caving in to the CAVE people. But ultimately without the public support for the trail opponents will win. Anyone who contributes to the economic health of Ocean City from full time residents to day trippers need to contact Ocean City's elected officials. You can conveniently contact them here.

From 2008-07-15 Ocean City

Haven Ave Bicycle Boulevard in Ocean City


Tony said...

Why would this "friends" group oppose a feasibility study? I smell a rat.

Anonymous said...

The study is not a feasibility study - it is an action plan to move the project toward implementation.

Also, FOTW does not oppose the causeway project because it meets a vital regional transportation need and the benefits of that outweigh the costs of the wetland destruction. The bike path would be an unecessary amenity.

The writer of the artical degrades the discussion by fostering the misconception that motive is what matters in land use controversies. What matters is the merits of positions and not motives for holding them.

The writer also undermines his argument by not addressing the relative safety of the proposed wetland bike path while addressing hat of the on-street options. According to promoters of the wetland option, the path would likely be about 8' wide, remote, unlit, inaccessible by ambulance, and surrounded by marsh and water - as much as 8-10 feet in parts during exceptionally high tides.

I leave it to the readers to decide how safe that would be.

Finally - readers should know that this publication did not contact the FOTW for comment before or after publication of this peice.

Andrew J. Besold said...


First my apologies for the Google spam filter for not posting your comment. I corrected that and posted your comment on April 19th.

As co-writter of this blog I'll address the issues you brought up but only once (I'm too busy to bounce back and forth in an argument).

Feasibility studies are always in some respect an "action plan" as you put it. How are people to know a projects feasibility if an investigation into how it would actually be built is not investigated??

You also said,

"the wetland option, the path would likely be about 8' wide, remote, unlit, inaccessible by ambulance, and surrounded by marsh and water - as much as 8-10 feet in parts during exceptionally high tides."

Sound like a great place to be to get away from the hub bub of traffic in OC, go fishing, birding, watch as sunset or just breath in the salt air! There are trails all over New Jersey that meet your description that have even less accessibility. The Delaware and Raritan Canal Towpath is one of them and it is a treasured resource that sees hundreds of if not thousands of users on a sunny Saturday with no known safety issues as far as I'm aware. It also floods on occasion. The tidal flooding is also a rare occurrence that could be avoided by any reasonable person since you could actually look out and see it from any access point (like from the Little League fields on Haven Ave or sewage treatment access at 45th Street).

By your own argument then all the trails at the Foresgate Wildlife Refuge and at the nearby Wetlands Institute should be closed as well. I'm quite sure that there are hundreds of other trails in the Cape May area that meet your description. I guess they all be closed as well??

As for wetland destruction, I have a degree in Ecology from Rutgers and visited the site last Summer. The trail would go on the pre-existing old railroad embankment that filled in wetlands well before there where such laws. I cannot see where converting this embankment into a trail would have any negative impacts on or require the further filling of wetlands. If anything the construction of the trail would be an opportunity to mitigate the impacts the railroad embankment has had on the flow of tidal waters on the area impounded by the embankment.

Being familiar with the site and taking as objective a position as I can, I can only say that the safety and wetland issues you bring up are nothing more that "red herrings"!

Anonymous said...

Well the commitment to respond just once is weak and likely evasive.

The trail would be narrow, elevated, unlit, and surrounded by marsh and water - as much as 8-10 feet in parts at exceptionally high tides. That is not a safe situation for a group of 12 year old boys out there at night, nor for an elderly man out there in late autumn who may get sick or fall and nobody would notice him.

Similar risks exist at other trails, but generally those were primarily intended to be nature trails and not to address car and pedestrian safety challenges like this one is. In that context, there is little if no justification for the public safety costs (risks) given there are safe alternative solutions on any of several city streets there just like everywhere else in town (btw - the wetland bike path promoters enthusiastically support Share the Road and Complete Streets programs everywhere else in town).

The appeal and benefits of riding through the wetlands is more than addressed by the pending causeway project which will have a 10' wide, fully protected dedicated bike/ped path going through two miles of wetlands, tidal uplands, creeks, and bays. It will also have viewpoints, rest areas, and educational signs.

The berm has been abandoned for 30 years and is now entirely wetlands, emergent wetlands, and maritime forest. State listed threatened and endangered species live in and around the project area. A train could not run on the berm now. It would crash into hundreds of trees, shrubs, nests, be in the marsh and would go nose first into the first of two 30' breaches where tides run through even at low tide.

I suppose you concede the invalidity of you NIMBY arugment since you do not bring it up again though it was a central support for your original blog entry.

As to credentials - the opponents have reports by PhDs, environmental lawyers, and also the oppinion of two DEP staffers that all conclude unequivically that the project is an unecessary intrusion into and destruction of wetlands and other salt marsh ecosystem comopnants.

You also did not and apparantly will not correspond with the opposition - but are content to disparage and otherwise marginalize them. All, I assume, in an effort to protect your ill-informed and poorly reasoned position.

FOTW, as it has told the DOT, wants a safe city-wide bike path. That can be accomplished with no environmental, fiscal, or public safety cost on city streets. You should want the same thing and promote that rather than devoting energy to obstanancy and winning a losing argument. You have my email address - if you change your approach, contact me and I'll send you useful information.

Andrew J. Besold said...

Look at it this way. I'll give you the last word at least for this blog post.

This is just one of dozens of issues that this blog deals with regarding bicycle and pedestrian issues in New Jersey, hence the limited time.

Also, my apologies for the spam filter not posting your comment again. It's posted now.