Brooklet’s mayor and City Council did not, on Thursday evening, discuss or vote on whether they will approve extending the paved S&S Greenway walking and cycling trail through a neighborhood in Brooklet to its downtown.
Instead, officials said that a meeting just for that discussion and vote will be held later, probably in July.
One week earlier, at least 120 people attended a forum the city hosted and expressed opinions of both sides. The next day, June 11, City Clerk Lori Phillips said the issue was slated to be on Thursday’s agenda for a vote. But when the Statesboro Herald called near midday Thursday, she said the topic would not be discussed or voted on because one council member would be absent and the city’s elected officials wanted all to be present for the vote.
Mayor Joe Grooms III stood to explain the situation after a budget hearing and just before convening the 7 p.m. regular session.
“That’s on hold until we call a meeting,” he said. “That’s what we’re going to discuss tonight, afterwards, on when everybody can be here. If it takes it, gets past June and goes into July, we just might have to do that. … So if you will, just be patient with us.”
Previously a text message had gone out stating only that there would be “no discussion” of the subject, leading to some replies and comments to the effect that the officials already had their minds made up and were about to vote, Grooms reported. But he said that was never the intent.
“This is something that I don’t take lightly, and we’re not going to push it through just because we can,” Grooms said. “This is something that I’m very, very concerned with what the people have voiced and what they want, and we’re not going to divide our community over a bike trail.”
A notice had also been posted on the doors of the council chamber.
“Residents: Please be advised due to the absence of a member of council we will not be voting or discussing the S&S Greenway Trail at tonight’s meeting. Public comments will be limited to agenda items only. The council will be voting on the S&S Greenway Trail at a future date.”
Council member Greg Schlierf was away because of the recent death of his son-in-law, Zach Touchton. The other four council members and Grooms went ahead with votes on the budget and a street repair action and heard zoning requests and a possible plan for a small sewer system to serve downtown Brooklet.
Those topics, but not the trail question, were on an agenda Phillips emailed the Herald reporter Thursday afternoon.
What it’s about
Maintained by the Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks & Recreation Department, the existing S&S Greenway Trail begins at Gentilly Road in Statesboro and, passing through a tunnel under Veterans Memorial Parkway, extends southeast a total of about 2.5 miles to a second trailhead park near the Five Points roundabout.
Bulloch County government staff members have pursued a concept for extending the trail about 4.5 miles southeastward to a proposed small trailhead park with restrooms behind the John Wesley Center in Brooklet.
With the current plan, the project carries an estimated cost of $5.6 million from concept through construction. Proposed funding sources are federal Transportation Alternative Program grants and the county’s Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. Construction is slated to begin in 2024.
The proposed route in Brooklet passes along West Lane Street across the roadway from Brooklet Elementary School and through a residential area. Some residents of Lane Street have been particularly active in opposing this part of the plan, and several Brooklet residents wore their “No Trail Here” pins again through Thursday’s meeting.
Chairman Roy Thompson of the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners said in May that the commissioners would not support continuing the trail into Brooklet unless the city government gives its approval.