WARREN Safety issues beset bike trail

Some council members and residents cite increased crime as a concern.
WARREN -- They've got the money. Now city officials have to determine if they want the trail.
Mayor Hank Angelo said the city was notified this week that it received a $56,250 grant from the Ohio Department of Public Works for a bike trail.
The money would be used to buy nearly two miles of former Baltimore & amp; Ohio railroad right of way from Burton Street to Forest Street. The section, owned by Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corp., is for the Warren bikeway part of the Great Ohio Lake to River Greenway Trail.
At the time the application was filed, some council members and residents expressed concerns about the area's becoming a haven for drug dealers and vagrants. The mayor said at that time that if the city was awarded the grant and council decided it's opposed to buying the right of way, the city would turn the money down.
Angelo has suggested a meeting be scheduled where the issue may be discussed. A date hasn't been set.
Eutona Nance of Vine Avenue lives near the proposed bike path and is concerned about the area's becoming a haven for more crime. She acknowledges that crime such as drug deals and prostitution has been less of a problem this summer because of an increased police presence.
But she worries that the bike trail will attract more problems.
Councilman agrees
Councilman James A. "Doc" Pugh, one of the members who voted against filing the grant application, said he still opposes it because of the residents' concerns.
"The people out there are going to feel unsafe and vulnerable with that coming through there," Pugh said.
Measures to ensure their safety, such as a fence along the trail, should be taken before any moves forward with a trail plan, he said.
Councilman Alford Novak, D-2nd, also opposed the trail application and hasn't changed his view.
Like Nance, he worries about crime but he also points to environmental cleanup costs.
"I think council needs to look at whether we can afford it and do we really know what we're getting into," Novak said.
The $56,250 grant is just an initial grant. It doesn't address cleanup of pollutants left from when the railroad was active.
"It's not even starting to scratch the surface to clean it up," Novak said.
Past experience
He referred to the Mahoningside plant and the time and expense involved with cleaning up that abandoned power plant site off Summit Street.
Novak also worries that the city can't afford to operate the parks it already has.
He plans to call a ward meeting next week to update residents on the trail grant.
Susan Dicken, executive director of Mill Creek Metropolitan Park District, which oversees a bike trail running from Western Reserve Road in Canfield Township to the Trumbull County line, said increased crime hasn't been an issue.
"With the development of a trail, there are more people in the area," Dicken said. "There are all those eyes and they all have cell phones. It's self-policing."

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