Heeding concerns raised by residents of the Palm Beach Point neighborhood about safety in the gated community, Wellington Village Council removed a planned bridge connecting a loop of multi-modal lane from the overall village plan on Tuesday, February 22.
At issue was a proposed bridge crossing Canal C-24 via Palm Beach Point that would complete a multi-modal loop and connect the rustic ranches to the Winter Equestrian Festival fairgrounds.
Eileen Yarbrough of Palm Beach Point said she lives at the front of the neighborhood not far from a multimodal lane in the area near Wellington Dog Park, but avoids that trail to ride horses.
“I’m very close to this park,” Yarbrough said. “We very rarely hack there. One of the reasons we go there very rarely is because of this lane and the shared use. We ride this block every day, my barn people. We encounter many more motorcycles than other horses from Rustic Ranches.
Coming from Palm Beach Point, she said she often encounters legal motorcycles on the trail to Palm Beach Point Blvd. go elsewhere in the village.
“There is a safety issue when you mix the motorized vehicle and the horse, and that path is quite narrow,” Yarbrough said. “I think if you studied how it was used, you would see that there is no need for another one, at least for riders. I don’t know of any riders in Palm Beach Point who feel like they’re losing access to this park.
Wellington Mayor Anne Gerwig said the multimodal issue on the trail was part of the discussion.
Vice Mayor John McGovern asked if council had made an amendment removing the multi-modal part of the plan, and Village Manager Jim Barnes said the amendment had not yet been approved, but based on emails he and Director of Strategic Planning Mike O’ Dell had received from residents, they had discussed the possibility.
“We would still recommend as a fallback alternative to try to have at least some of the integrity of the original plan that was in place as of 2016 and an overall goal for the Wellington Village Network,” Barnes said, adding that based on public comments received that evening, he felt the plan addressed some concerns about the compatibility of a multi-modal trail, as opposed to a strictly equestrian trail.
Gerwig said she felt compatibility wasn’t the whole issue.
“It looks like the riders, at least that we have access to, don’t even want the horses to cross there, and I think the issue of safety is what’s at the forefront,” she said. .
Gerwig said the board could remove that particular passage and not significantly affect the overall plan.
“You’re always going to have traffic,” she said. “You are always going to have this stalemate. I think that’s what Mr. O’Dell is trying to avoid.
Councilman Michael Napoleone said he appreciated O’Dell’s desire to create a loop, but also had concerns.
“As for this crossing, I cycle down Flying Cow frequently, so I know what you’re talking about with the speed,” he said.
Napoleon added that he saw no demand or need for an additional canal crossing.
“I think the C-22 [Canal] connection is just a mile down the road. I use this crossover if I cycle there. I think that’s perfectly acceptable for anyone who wants to cross over there,” he said. “I appreciate the desire to create a loop there, so people don’t end up with no way out, but I don’t see the need for people to have a crossing there, and I would be in favor of the deletion of this passage that we are talking about tonight.
Councilman Michael Drahos agreed.
“The way this system is set up, we’ve preserved all of Wellington’s gated communities,” Drahos said. “Once we start talking, even if it’s an aspiration, of breaching the security of a gated community, there must be some substantial and compelling reason for me to even think of something like this. We are obviously far from that tonight. I don’t think because it was there in 2016 we shouldn’t fix this.
Napoleone made a motion to remove the planned crossing on Canal C-24 to Palm Beach Point from the full plan, which carried 5-0.
McGovern said the decision is important for the future of the village in terms of connectivity, trail systems, recreation and safety.
He also thanked O’Dell for his efforts in implementing the overall plan.
“I just want to make sure that as a board we say thank you to you and your team,” McGovern told O’Dell.