Councilman Hunter Pepper has withdrawn his proposal to pave the Wilson Morgan Park walking trail, but he said he will bring it up again in the future.
Pepper proposed in June paving the 1½-mile crushed gravel walking trail with asphalt. After consulting with City Engineer Carl Prewitt, the District 4 councilman estimated the paving project would cost about $90,000.
However, Pepper said his proposal doesn’t have the support of fellow council members or Parks and Recreation Director Jason Lake.
“I just couldn’t gather enough votes,” Pepper said. “There needs to be more thought put into it, but it’s something I look forward to bringing back up again.”
Pepper said he believes the trail needs to be paved so wheelchair-bound people can use it.
“It’s very difficult for someone in a wheelchair to use the gravel trail,” Pepper said.
The Pepper proposal was a surprise to the other council members and Lake, who said at the time that paving the walking trail isn’t in a capital plan for the park. They said at the time they didn’t even know that anyone wanted the trail paved.
Council President Jacob Ladner said he would support paving the Wilson Morgan walking trail, especially since the city’s other walking trails are mostly crushed rock.
“I think it would be nice to have it paved,” Ladner said. “The Point Mallard walking trail is a good mix of paving and gravel.”
Councilmen Carlton McMasters and Billy Jackson said they oppose paving the Wilson Morgan trail.
“We’ve got a lot more needs even at Wilson Morgan that we can spend $100,000 on other than paving the walking trail,” McMasters said.
Councilman Kyle Pike said Pepper’s proposal was new to him and he wasn’t aware that paving the walking trail is something that’s in demand.
“It’s not something I’ve heard about from residents,” Pike said. “I see how it could be beneficial, but maybe there are probably better uses for the money.”
The Parks and Recreation Board approved a capital plan in 2018 that did not include paving the trail. The plan featured updating the press box, replacing the playground, demolishing the batting cages, and renovating or replacing the restrooms near the dog park.
The City Council voted recently to replace all of the city’s tennis courts, including the Wilson Morgan courts, for $300,000.
The Parks & Recreation Board also passed a resolution in 2018 urging the City Council to dredge Wilson Morgan Lake. Silt and sediment are slowly building up in the lake, reducing the water depth and allowing the aquatic plants to grow and use the oxygen needed for fish and other aquatic wildlife to live.
However, the council rejected the dredging project after the city's engineering consultant estimated it would cost $2.37 million.
McMasters said another priority for him is raising Police Department salaries. The Personnel Board recommended at its June meeting that the city spend $900,000 on police officer raises to make the department competitive with other area police departments.
The Personnel Board recommended this pay increase despite some support from the Police Department for $1.9 million in pay increases.
The police recommendation has not been presented to the City Council for consideration.