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The planned relocation of an important and popular section of the People Trails is a disappointment to the many bicyclists and walkers who had come to look upon the wooded path along the Flat Rock River as an idyllic escape into nature.
While regrettable to its users, the decision to relocate a portion of the link between Noblitt and Mill Race parks was inevitable and rooted in the reality of the natural forces of a river on its neighboring landscapes.
The section, which had tree cover for most of its span, has actually been closed for more than 19 months, the victim of constant high water that often displaced sections of the asphalt. What sections were not washed away were often covered by several inches of silt. Even when it was whole, overflows on the path left muddy areas that were nearly impossible to keep clean.
The new section, which will be built at a cost of $119,194 and funded through economic development income tax revenues, will be to the east of the railroad tracks and well away from the riverbank. While some of the natural ambiance of the original path will be lost, there will be a measure of nature in the replacement trail section as it will dip into wooded areas and pass through wetlands.
It also will not be subject to as many closures as the old trail because of high water. The new location will still be affected during flood conditions but not to the extent of the old one when river water frequently lapped over banks and left stretches of mud, which turned many a pleasant walk into an unpleasant one.
The new section also will be solidly built and will feature a 120-foot-long and 10-foot-wide boardwalk and foot bridge made of pre-engineered concrete and a tan, wood-like surface.
In time, memories of the old trail will fade. The new section will still have a touch of forest and the sensations that only encounters with nature can arouse.
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