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Grass-roots Trailbuilder Irks Some Dispute Revolve Around Path's Placement

By Mike Snyder
Houston Chronicle 8/22/04

Developer Alan J. Atkinson's construction of bicycle trails along Buffalo Bayou has drawn praise and appreciation from many who support expansion of the city's bikeway system. But his work has not come without criticism.

The most contentious issue has been the construction in July of a 320-foot segment along Race Street, at the edge of a park on the south side of the bayou. The park, east of the historic McKee Street bridge, is owned by the nonprofit Art and Environmental Architecture Inc.

Leaders of the organization said parts of the Race Street trail intrude on park property and that trees planted alongside the trail will block access of heavy equipment needed for future park development.

"Half of the trees are on AEA property," said board member Laurie Payne.

City officials had proposed a route farther south, along Runnels. But the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, which paid for construction of the trail, wanted it as close as possible to the bayou, said the group's president, Anne Olson.

She described the chosen route, which does not provide a view of the bayou, as a compromise.

Bicyclist Barry Reese said frustration with the partnership over the Race Street trail alignment and other issues prompted him to resign a few months ago as chairman of the Houston Pedestrian-Bicycle Advisory Committee.

"We've been very consistent that we don't want to harm green space" in developing bike trails, Reese said.

Another concern focuses on placement of certain trails on the north side of the bayou.

In some areas, Atkinson said, he built the trails closer to the bayou than city consultants recommended to preserve more land for future development.

Jim Mackey, a member of the Pedestrian-Bicycle Advisory Committee, said placement of trails so close to the bank could make them vulnerable to erosion of the soil underneath.

Atkinson said the bank trails are on secure ground.

He said the trail is on an abandoned railroad right of way, although he could not provide details.


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