A proposed greenway project along Euchee Creek has some residents in Stratford subdivision seeing red.
About 50 Stratford homeowners met Thursday night with county officials and trail planners to express their displeasure with a possible route of the proposed trail.
The master plan for the Euchee Creek greenway project calls for a biking and walking trail to stretch several miles from Chamblin Road near Interstate 20 north to Riverside Park on Hardy McManus Road. County leaders want to build a portion of the trail on a narrow skirt of county-owned land between the creek and dozens of homes along Barnsley Drive.
At the meeting, nearly all the residents who spoke said they did not want the trail so close to their homes for fear it might invite crime and harm the environment.
Amy Anderson, a Barnsley Drive resident and mother of two, said her home is only 38 feet from the water's edge. With a state law requiring a 25-foot wetlands buffer, a trail behind her home would be within 13 feet of her back door.
"I won't let my children play in a yard with a path that might link registered sex offenders to my back yard," she said.
Others in attendance agreed with Anderson, saying the trail would invite vandalism and sexual predators into a neighborhood they say is virtually crime-free. Some residents said they doubted that the Columbia County Sheriff's Office could devote enough resources to guarantee the safety of their children or protect property if the trail were built.
Representatives of The Jaeger Co., a Gainesville, Ga., firm chosen to design the project, cited 1995-96 FBI statistics that show greenways tend to have low crime rates.
Greenways, they said, can increase property values and rank high as an amenity with prospective home buyers surveyed by the National Association of Realtors and Homebuilders.
Some homeowners, however, said that the crime statistics were dated and that increased property values were not as important as their children's safety.
Barry Smith, the community and leisure services director for the county, said that the greenway is in its preliminary stages and that planners will consider all possible routes for the trail.
"We want y'all to be happy and we want y'all to embrace this greenway," Smith said.
Preston Duffie, the county's forester and coordinator of green space, said a completed master plan is still several months away and construction as long as 15 years down the road.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.