Belmont searching for paths to future

Officials are developing plans for three new trails connecting city streets, part of a potential network of such trails on city-owned easements.

Tonight, the City Council is expected to discuss the preparation of a draft plan for a trail to the top of Oak Knoll from Arbor Avenue, a link between Hillman and Ridge roads and paths linking Paloma Avenue to O'Neill Avenue and Molitor Road to Sunnyslope Avenue.

The city has accumulated public right of ways along private property lines in the last 80 years but until recently left most of them unused and undeveloped. But efforts are now under way to create a trail network on the easements, and city staff have identified 27 trail segments that feasibly could be developed for public use.

“It adds to the ambiance of a town,” Councilmember Coralin Feierbach said of the pathways.

Other cities, such as Berkeley and Los Altos Hills, have run into conflict when they made similar efforts to create such public spaces because residents became concerned about the trails’ proximity to their homes and potential safety and privacy issues.

Concerns about a path’s proximity to a home would be considered on a case-by-case basis because some residents “may feel intruded upon,” Feierbach said.

Pierre Saint-Hilaire, a co-president of the Cipriani Neighborhood Homeowners Association, said he supported the creation of pathways in general because it would cut back on overgrowth of brush, reducing potential fuel for fires in the neighborhood.

“I think most people who come to live in Belmont really enjoy this interface with nature,” Saint-Hilaire said. “But it's never easy.”

If the council pursues the development of these paths and trails, which could range from 5 feet to 20 feet wide, it will need to complete an extensive public outreach campaign, according to the Public Works officials.

“We want it to be a process where all the affected properties are involved,” Public Works Director Ray Davis said.

Davis noted that development of the paths would “probably require some significant investment,” and officials would look into volunteer opportunities for construction, such as Eagle Scouts.

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