Outrage over bike paths leads to half decision by city board

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The proposed addition of bike paths to Pawnee Prairie Park is sparking outrage for a niche the park tailors to.

Pawnee Prairie Park, located in southwest Wichita between Tyler, Kellogg, Maize and Pawnee, has long served horse riders. The park is the only one in the area that allows horses to be on the grounds. 

“I truly believe it is somewhere outside of Pawnee Prairie, there is other land to be had,” said Lindsey Fry. Fry is against adding bike paths to the park, saying that bicycles tend to scare horses and could lead to someone being injured by the horse kicking or bucking.

“People don't know about being around horses and how to be around them in a safe way,” Fry said.

Pawnee Prairie Park currently prohibits bikes from traveling through the park, meanwhile people who walk and hike through the park do so unrestricted.

A proposal working its way through the Parks and Recreation department would allow bikes on designated paths.

On Monday, a board meeting was held with the primary topic being the bike paths. Public comment was largely against adding bike paths.

“I feel that if you continue with the proposed plan, you are making a huge mistake,” said one woman.

A few people spoke in support of the bike paths, one of them being Jeff Blubaugh, Wichita City Councilman.

Blubaugh cited that over 15,000 people live around the Pawnee Prairie Park, but are not allowed to ride bikes anywhere in the area because there are no city owned parks or bike paths.

“They have no bike lanes, they have no where to ride, they have no public parks in the area to utilize,” Blubaugh said.

During the meeting, a overhead projected showed the rendering of the proposed bike path, showing how if approved, bikes would be allowed to travel through the park.

After nearly two hours of public comment, the Parks and Recreation board agreed to approve half of a bike path that would allow bikes on the far western edge of the park. The other portion of the path that meandered through the southern half of the park was tabled to allow a collaboration of horse riders and other to try to make a compromise.

If no compromise can be made by the June 2017 Park and Recreation board meeting, the full proposal displayed on Monday is to be approved.

Stipulation of the compromise are to be that the total cost of the bike paths and other renovations do not exceed $1,000,000.

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