Despite opposition from the eight-person crowd at an Oct. 29 workshop, grant proposals for a 10-foot-wide multi-use path were submitted to Florida DEP Wednesday by Preble-Rish’s Cliff Knauer.
“The county has been trying to find funding sources for the plan that they adopted,” said Knauer of the county’s Genesis 30A study adopted in 2006. “One of the jobs I take very seriously is matching needs with opportunities.”
The opportunity is the DEP’s Department of Greenways and Trails recreational trails grant program which would be used to satisfy the Genesis 30A study’s plan to “minimize conflict between vehicles, pedestrians/cyclists and golf carts, and improve mobility.”
The multi-use path along 30A would accommodate low-speed vehicles, golf carts, and other motorized forms of transportation traveling a 45-mile-per-hour 2.05-mile stretch from C.R. 83 in Blue Mountain Beach to C.R. 283 in Grayton Beach. It would be built north of 30A with asphalt and timber bridges to cross three coastal dune lakes, and divided for east- and westbound traffic.
People in the crowd called it “dangerous” and “a road to nowhere,” but according to Knauer, this is the right measure for the county to take. The multiuse path could help relieve congestion and transportation along 30A by replacing cars on the road with golf carts on the path. As well, it would increase the range of motorized vehicles’ travel area as a link between Grayton Beach and areas west along 30A, which have a 35 mph speed limit where motorized vehicles can legally travel.
Some at the meeting had other solutions to the lack of traversable road.
Greg Bradford, owner of Gulf Cart Rentals, saw the advantage of bettering golf cart travel, though he saw lowering the speed limit as an alternative improvement and wished the path would extend to WaterColor.
“The TDC is pushing for this to be a golf cart-friendly community,” said Bradford, touting the ease of parking a golf cart. “My golf carts can run from WaterColor almost to past Seagrove Beach. The biggest problem … is a path from WaterColor to Grayton that is 45 mph. If that half-mile stretch was changed to 35, you could go from Seagrove Beach to Blue Mountain Beach on a low-speed vehicle.”
But Knauer said that speed limits are designated by following the 85th percentile “the speed at or below which 85 percent of the observed free-flowing vehicles are traveling.” With most roads much above 45 mph, “I don’t think legally changing the speed limit would be feasible.” He also mentioned that a similar path extending east to WaterColor would cost millions of dollars in bridges alone.
Attendees saw the scenic aesthetic of 30A as a key issue in the project.
Jan Rieveschl said putting in a 10-foot wide asphalt path compromises the “green space on a scenic highway.
“If we keep managing (the natural area), and making it smaller and smaller, I don’t think that’s necessarily best economically for the county,” he said.
Preble-Rish moved forward with the grant application to fund the $553,000 project, although a select group of local residents were vehemently opposed.
But Knauer maintains this is the right route for the county to take in mitigating and improving golf cart and other traffic issues along 30A.
“I think the commission took very seriously the need to protect the environment. This is the plan that they came up with,” said Knauer.
Knauer said if the county receives the grant and decides to move ahead, officials will likely seek public input before a final design is implemented and construction begins, which will be completed by Preble-Rish.