A bout 100 Encinitas residents packed a a City Council room Wednesday night to voice their opinions on a change for a controversial bike path and, ultimately, the plans for the path were scrapped.
Plans for the hotly-debated "Rail Trail" were derailed after the lengthy community meeting where the Encinitas City Council voted against the idea to build a bike and pedestrian trail east of the train tracks.
In May 2015, the Encinitas City Council approved a plan that would put the Encinitas portion of a developed trail on San Elijo and Vulcan avenues rather than Coast Highway 101. One member has since then retracted her approval, but others initially agreed it would help make the area safer for bikers and walkers.
The trail plan called for a two-mile section of the planned 44-mile Coastal Rail trail to be developed at the Encinitas site, with plans to eventually have the Coastal Rail trail run from Oceanside all the way to Santa Fe Depot. The 10-foot-wide trail would be made of concrete or asphalt and would have a post and cable fence separating it from the railroad tracks. The trail would be open to two-way bicycle and pedestrian traffic.
As it stands, the undeveloped rail corridor in Encinitas is a rough and rugged dirt path that some consider a throwback to the community’s origins.
And, after Wednesday’s vote, that's exactly how it will stay.
The meeting was so packed, it was standing room only.
Nearly 30 residents – most of them against the change to the trail – gave the City Council panel an earful. Many opponents of the Rail Trail argued the path would change the community -- and not for the better.
"Ultimately, it will change the character of Cardiff," said opponent Kimberly Alkhas.
However, proponents of the trail said the change would be a positive addition to Encinitas.
"We do, in our minds, have our own path that we've created and we felt that that is sufficient for this part of the neighborhood," said Jeff Sims, a resident and supporter.
Alkhas said she worried about traffic, parking, beach access and the view should the trail go on as planned. Her family member, Blaize Alkhas agreed.
"At the end of the day, I think that a lot of the Cardiff locals just like Cardiff the way it is," said Blaize. "We want to preserve it."
After many hours of discussion, the mayor of Encinitas made a motion to dismiss the plan that, so far, cost the community $700,000, in favor of pursuing a coastal trail along the 101.
Alkhas and other opponents were thrilled.
“I am so pleased and even more pleased because I think that, as a community, we’ve come together and we all recognize San Elijo can be safer and the 101 will give more access to even more people,” she told NBC 7.
Still, not everyone walked away from the meeting happy, including resident Bob Sheffield.
“[The original trail plan] was a beautiful thing we could have had in our community. It would have raised the quality of life there. It would have changed a busy and unsafe street into a beautiful park-like setting with a nice trail,” Sheffield told NBC 7.
The City Council is now shifting focus to pursue other parts of the plan – including the pedestrian crossing at Montgomery Avenue, a quiet zone at Chesterfield. The next meeting is slated for the second week of April.