It is not in the long-term interest of the city to give up the easement for First Avenue.
That was the message the Scandia council sent to downtown residents on May 21 when it decided not to hold a public hearing on vacating the easement between Brunfelt Realty and the Benson house.
The 2008 plan created for Lilleskogen Park uses the easement, originally intended for a city street, to connect the park with Olinda Trail in the center of town.
A petition from abutting property owners asked the city to vacate the easement.
Greg Benson, remembering when the park was run by the Lions, worried about criminal activity. “It’s not just the wonderful people who will be going through here,” he said. “It’s the problem people: graffiti, things stolen. We watched it happen in the past.”
At an outdoor meeting of Olinda Trail residents with council members and city staff on May 20, Benson said people even built bonfires on his property.
But just because the city is keeping the easement does not mean it will necessarily become an entrance to Lilleskogen Park. Some council members saw no reason to invite the public to access the park from Olinda. At the May 20 meeting Chris Ness said, “I have no desire to ever see a trailhead there.” Jim Schneider agreed.
But on May 21, the action before the council was whether to hold a public hearing as the first step in vacating the easement. By state statute, a council can vacate a street if it is in the interest of the public.
At the council meeting, no one even made a motion to hold a public hearing. “I see no reason to vacate that property,” Mayor Randall Simonson said. If it is not used as a trail connection, there may be other public uses for the site in the future.
Sally Swanson said if the trail is the main concern, residents should start with the Park and Recreation Committee.
The residents who came to the outdoor meeting were mainly concerned with having a public trail through their neighborhood and with people walking on their property. They saw no need for another park access when several already exist.
But they also had another gripe: parking. There’s not enough parking space on Olinda Trail north of Oakhill Road, an area with both homes and businesses. When cars park in front of mailboxes, one said, the mail is not delivered.