The proposed bicycle/pedestrian plan in Rock Island began in 2021 as a way to address fitness and transportation needs in a cost effective way.
In December of 2021, then- County Executive Jimmy Haley announced his commitment to the Community Transportation Planning Grant (CTPG) opportunity. Since Warren County was considered an at-risk county, the match on the grant was waived.
In a document sent to Stacy Morrison of the Long Range Planning Division obtained by the Southern Standard, Haley wrote, “With the funds from the CTPG, Warren County seeks a Bicycle/Pedestrian Master plan for unincorporated Rock Island to coordinate future multimodal transportation infrastructure serving both local community needs and advancing the tourism strategic plan.”
Haley explained in the document that this plan would guide the county into developing the framework for a complete multimodal transportation system in the unincorporated area of Rock Island. He said the proposal garnered a lot of support from multiple people.
Haley wrote, “The CTPG proposal has the broad support of numerous officials, boards and related organizations. This community recognizes the importance of a walkable and bikeable community and has demonstrated keen interest in building connectivity from this amazing state park and unique locally owned businesses. The creation of this plan would give critical guidance which is needed to meet previously mentioned objectives. By achieving these objectives, we would make measurable progress in creating community infrastructure and encourage fitness and wellness while also supporting the local tourism initiatives.”
The Bicycle/Pedestrian Master Plan states the goal is to create a multimodal connection between the businesses along Highway 287, area residents and the entrance to Rock Island State Park. The plan lists safety as one of the biggest issues to be addressed.
The plan states, “While residents in this area enjoy the rural atmosphere, the complete lack of walking and biking infrastructure creates a huge safety risk. Based on the existing roads and topographic constraints it may not be appropriate to build sidewalks along current routes, a better solution to maintain safety while retaining rural atmosphere may be to build a greenway that connects residences and businesses with the park.”
Health and wellness were other concerns listed in the plan. The plan states, “Warren County has an adult obesity prevalence of 34 percent, a physical inactivity rate of 28 percent and an upward trending childhood overweight and obesity prevalence of 45 percent. A relatively high poverty rate, designated as an economical at-risk county, contribute to the poor county wide health outcomes. A Bike/Ped Master Plan would significantly advance the county's ability to provide the community with well-designed infrastructure that costs nothing to use and addresses fitness and transportation needs.”
A kick-off meeting was held on Oct. 12, 2022 to discuss the Rock Island Bicycle/Pedestrian Plan. According to the minutes of the meeting, Sandy Sclafani of Gresham Smith, Greg Kern of Gresham Smith, Kevin Layne from TDOT Region 2 Long Range Planning, Center Hill RPO Coordinator Silas Stoddard, County Executive Terry Bell, County Commissioner Tommy Savage, RNC Committeewoman Beth Campbell, Bill Campbell and local historian Lynette Moore attended the meeting.
The minutes state that during the meeting, the county voiced concerns over how to pay for the maintenance of the project and were advised that the maintenance of the footpath would be the county’s responsibility.
Some of the other items discussed in the project area overview at this meeting included: The county would like to use right-of-way along the railroad for a portion of the project and they were unsure if Klemton Road is public or private as the owner has posted private property signs and installed a gate near SR 13. Roles and responsibilities were also designated during this meeting. According to the minutes, Beth Campbell was listed as the primary contact from the county.
The original time line of events included a kick-off meeting on Oct. 12, 2022, an intention to develop alternatives and provide to the city and TDOT by mid-January 2023, to have a public meeting in mid-February 2023, to submit a draft plan for review by early-March 2023, to have a final plan by early-April 2023 to present to council if requested by county and then to have the county adopt a resolution by May 15, 2023.
The plan was not received well by Rock Island residents at the public meeting on March 10. The meeting was planned to be an open-house style where residents could walk in, see the plans and leave. The open-house turned into a traditional meeting as State Rep. Paul Sherrell and County Executive Terry Bell attempted to address the crowd.
The future of the project is currently uncertain. The final plans for the projects were projected to be ready by early-April, but since the plan faced opposition it is unclear how the plans will proceed at this time. More information regarding the proposed bike/pedestrian path will be released as it becomes available.