'Tolerance' tested as neighborhood trail access legalized from Friendship Lane into Pioneer Park
Despite privacy fears expressed by the neighbor whose property line it's next to, a formal trail through a vacant lot was backed by Colorado Springs Planning Commission in September, legalizing a longstanding shortcut for Holmes and Coronado students.
Leading the trail advocacy was resident Eric Vaillancourt, working with the Friendship Lane/Crescent Lane neighborhood's HOA and other supporters over the past two years. He and fellow volunteers built the roughly 85-foot-long path - nicknamed the Tolerance Trail - in the past year, connecting Friendship Lane with Pioneer Park. It
“A lot of kids use and have used this access for over 50 years as a shorter and safer way to get to Holmes Middle School and Coronado High School,” Vaillancourt told the Westside Pioneer previously. “This is a unique opportunity to make our neighborhoods more connected and livable.”
The commission heard the matter as an appeal of the administrative decision by Hannah Van Nimwegen, the city planner assigned to the issue. In August, she had approved the preliminary and final plat for what's called the Tolerance Trail Subdivision (10 Friendship Lane). The plat slices a 10-foot wide tract off the north side of the 18,000-square-foot lot as a trail donation to the city, leaving the remaining 16,300 square feet as a vacant residential lot.
As built, the trail is defined by a split-rail fence on either side, one of which bounds the property line of 8 Friendship Lane, owned by Cristin Byrne. The appeal was filed by Byrne and five others.
But the preponderance of sentiment - namely the majority of the neighbors and such entities as the Trails and Open Space Coalition, Holmes Middle
The commission vote at the end of the 1˝-hour discussion was 5-1 (three members absent) against the appeal.
The contrary vote was cast by John Henninger, who questioned the safety of the city formalizing an access through a neighborhood (Friendship/Crescent Lane) that doesn't have sidewalks.
Jamie Fletcher, part of the commission majority, described the trail advocacy as a “stellar example of how great cities are built from great neighborhoods, with wonderful citizens willing to contribute time and money and accomplish projects like this.”
The property is owned by Tony White and Patti Freudenberg - long-time Friendship residents themselves, who bought the site in the past year and worked with Vaillancourt to complete the platting arrangement.
They do not plan to keep the land. They want to sell it “to hopefully a lovely person or family who wants to build a single-family home with a great view in our neighborhood,” Freudenberg said after the Planning Commission meeting.
The appelants were represented by attorney Debra Fortenberry, who told the commission that her clients did not dispute the access idea, but opposed its "hugging the boundary of an adjacent lot."
In her comments to the commission, Cristin Byrne tearfully related that the trail along her property line "is really uncomfortable for me. I hear all the noise. People are staring at me and I feel their eyes on my back. This undue invasion of my privacy has really affected me.”
She said she would be OK with the trail if it was farther away from her property,
Responding to that point later in the meeting, Vaillancourt said that his group had talked to Byrne, as well as to the property owner on the other side, to see if they wanted to buy the lot so as to "increase the buffer zone" for the trail, but neither was interested in doing so. His group had also offered to upgrade the Byrnes property's fence, he said, but "she didn't want that."
Other points were that because the route to/from the schools is from the north side, students would be more likely to cut the trail if it was too far south on the property; also, a trail through the middle part of the lot would result in insufficient space for a house to eventually be built there.
City Parks officials have pledged to provide ongoing upkeep for the Tolerance Trail, but Kristin Maxwell, another appeal backer, was skeptical. A city sidewalk already exists on Fontmore Road, and students would use it more often if the city maintained it better, she argued. “With the dirt and debris, you can barely see it in places.”
The Friendship and Pioneer Park neighborhoods sit side by side, but the former was developed first, before Pioneer Park was established and Holmes and Coronado had been built. “Therefore, a connection was never formalized between the neighborhood, park and the school,” Van Nimwegen explained in her written staff report for the commission.
Over time, according to residents, with just an empty lot and a fence separating Friendship Lane and the park, the fence would get torn away every time it would get repaired. Before the current trail was built, several unofficial access trails went across the property.
In her report, Van Nimwegen recommended denial of the appeal, saying that the Tolerance Trail is in line with modern neighborhoods that already "are platted with midblock crossings [which] are essential to neighborhood connectivity.” Van Nimwegen also rejected trail-related concerns from appelants, such as potential traffic increases, parking and congestion in that part of Friendship Lane.
Westside Pioneer article