A stroll around the lake

Wednesday, January 28, 2015
By Brian McCauley

The new Paola Pathways trail system is taking shape around Lake Miola, but city officials now are working on finding a way to keep people from driving motorized vehicles on the new paths.

Paola Public Works personnel began working on the Lake Miola trails late last year, taking a similar approach to the recent creation of the 8-foot-wide trails made out of limestone screenings that wind through Wallace Park.

Trails on the west side of the lake have been installed, and crews are getting ready to tackle the east side, said Paola Planning Director and Paola Pathways official Mike Gotfredson.

Paola City Council members, during their Jan. 13 meeting, were notified that the lake trails have already been utilized by several community walkers, joggers and bike riders, but also by a number of drivers operating vehicles that the trails were not designed to service.

The issue has come up a few times in the past at the trails in Wallace Park, with Public Works Director Craig Browning remembering one specific time in which a person drove a car on the trail and over a pedestrian bridge.

But there have been more reported cases at Lake Miola, where there aren’t as many trees and thick brush areas to provide a natural deterrent and where the trails provide access to areas that otherwise couldn’t be reached by vehicle without driving on the grass.  “I can’t believe people think those are roads,” Mayor Artie Stuteville said at the council meeting.

Proposed Ordinance
Although a sign already is posted at the lake stating that motor vehicles are only permitted on roadways and in parking areas, the council members recently reviewed a draft of a proposed ordinance that would list specific regulations for Paola Pathways trails.

The proposed ordinance would prohibit the use of the trails between midnight and 5 a.m. daily, and motorized vehicles would not be permitted to be driven on, over or across the trails at any time. The ordinance defines motorized vehicles as any motorized form of transportation including, but not limited to: cars, trucks, motorcycles, tractors, farm machinery, all-terrain vehicles, golf carts, minibikes, dune buggies and snowmobiles. Motorized wheelchairs would be allowed.

The ordinance would still allow many different uses, including walking, hiking, jogging, cycling, roller blading, cross country skiing and snow shoeing.

Pets also would still be allowed, but they would be required to be restrained by a leash not exceeding 8 feet in length. Horses, mules or other similar animals would not be permitted on the trails.

The proposed ordinance also covers safety, environmental and soliciting concerns, as well as listing the requirement of a permit before conducting a community event on the trails.

The council members did not take action on the ordinance during their Jan. 13 meeting because the topic was for discussion only.

Making progress
Anyone who drives toward the lake from Hedge Lane likely will spot the new trails, as well as a wooden structure near the intersection of 299th Street and West Lake Miola Drive. The structure is the framework of a kiosk that Gotfredson said will look just like the ones in Wallace Park that map out the trails and list sponsors.

“There will be two kiosks on the west side, two on the east side and one on the north side,” Gotfredson said.

Peg Wieland with Paola Pathways said some of the trail designs were modified after meeting with lake residents.

“They had some great input regarding vehicle traffic and bicycle traffic heading to the beach during the summer,” Wieland said.

The residents recommended building a more direct route to the beach, in addition to the planned trail closer to the shoreline, so that people headed for the beach wouldn’t decide to stay on the road instead of taking the longer, scenic trail route.

The west section of trail now essentially forms a small loop before crossing over a culvert and heading north and then east toward the swimming beach.

The entire lake phase is not expected to be complete until 2016, and it will total more than seven miles of new trail — tripling the distance of the city’s existing trail system.

This fall, once Public Works crews finish their road projects, work will focus on connecting the east and west trail lake sections by cutting through the wooded area around the north end. The final stage of the plan will be completed during the winter of 2016-17, with trail on the south end below the dam, according to a news release.

Based on the cost of Phase 1, the task force has set a goal of raising $60,000 to complete the project around Lake Miola. The money would cover the cost of five trailhead kiosks, a footbridge, various sizes and quantities of drainage pipes, paving and striping of some parking lots and trash/recycling receptacles, according to the release.

The city already has received a $30,000 matching grant from the Sunflower Foundation for the lake trails project, and Paola Pathways volunteers have been busy with a fundraising campaign designed to generate the required matching community revenue.