One of the most well used pieces of Richfield City’s infrastructure is in danger.
The bike/pedestrian path has become a favorite fixture in the city. Barring extreme weather, the path has people on it every day of the year. Families, couples, people with dogs, joggers, walkers, scooters, children and senior citizens all use the path. Even when it’s freezing outside, there are people walking, riding and enjoying the path.
In the past decade, it is the one visible piece of infrastructure that has done more to enrich people’s lives than any other in Richfield City, but now it’s in trouble.
When Richfield City extended its bike/pedestrian path from 500 North and 700 West to Main Street in 2009, it entered into an agreement with a canal company to maintain the bank.
Now, a decade later, the time has come for bank repairs. It’s a process that has been complicated by several factors. For one thing, water has remained in the canal throughout the winter, making it impossible for equipment to traverse the canal without sinking.
This means smaller equipment may have to be used, accessing the bank using the path. This will be more expensive and undoubtedly destroy the surface of the path, requiring more repairs.
Hindsight being what it is, if armoring of the bank had been completed when the path was installed more than 10 years ago, the problem likely wouldn’t have cropped up. However, as that was an added expense at the time, it was not pursued, and as a result the canal bank has eroded to the point of endangering the path.
Due to the complications, it’s going to cost substantially more to save the path than if the canal bank had been properly armored in the first place.
Richfield City has always had some reticence when it comes to investing in recreation infrastructure.
This is why playground equipment sometimes goes unrepaired or not replaced for months after being broken. The swimming pool is patched and fixed just enough to keep it operational. The city’s skate park is falling apart.
Now a major portion of the city’s bike/pedestrian path is in danger of collapsing.
Sadly, it doesn’t need to be this way. The city has dedicated funding sources entirely obligated to recreation and its supporting infrastructure. Voters have multiple times now supported a local option parks, arts and recreation tax for the express purpose of maintaining and upgrading infrastructure.
Some of this money is being set aside, approximately $100,000 a year, for a future pool replacement. At this point, the pool may or may not happen, but there are plenty of other pressing needs.
With a bond on the expansion of the golf course due to be paid off in the near future, there will more available recreation funding.
However, the current way of doing business isn’t sustainable.
Cities have master plans for transportation, water and sewer. Recreation should be no different.
The city should invest in a strategic, long-term master plan for recreation that would include an analysis of current infrastructure, a maintenance/replacement schedule, goals for the future and a strategy for achieving those goals.
It will take a substantial investment, but the city would be able to more easily tackle projects like the bike path repair if they are planned for ahead of time.
The preplanning of a master plan would likely save time, money and effort in the future.