Editor, I moved to Richmond Hill in 1995. I built a house in Mulberry subdivision on Flint Creek Drive. My house overlooks a creek that backs up to the trail in J.F. Gregory Park. During the winter when the leaves have fallen, I can see most everyone running the trail from inside my house.
When I moved into the house, the property was privately held and I wished that I had access to the scenic beauty of the trail. One day, the city purchased the property and created J.F. Gregory Park and gave the public access to the scenic trail. What a wonderful thing.
I started running or walking the trail three to four times a week with much satisfaction. One day, the city closed the trail for repairs. When it reopened, the city had built wood bridges where the culverts used to be. What a wonderful addition. It improved the natural beauty of the trail.
A few years later, the trail was closed for repairs again. After it reopened and I rounded a corner, I stopped and cried. Someone had concreted the trail. Not only did it take away from the natural beauty of the trail, but it created the most inhospitable surface possible for runners and walkers. This type of surface destroys your knees and hips. Concrete is extremely hard after 21 days and continues to get harder forever. Most of us use the trail to try to get away from the concrete jungle where we live and work.
I, like most runners, use the side of the trail. Over the years we have worn away the dirt and exposed the roots and leftover concrete, creating a hazard. About three times a year, I stumble and have to catch myself when my toe hits a root or leftover concrete. About once a year, I do a face-dive into the dirt. At 63, this is not a good idea, but it’s better to break an arm than require knee or hip surgery.
When I made inquiry, I was told that this was done to make the trail wheelchair accessible. I have never seen a wheelchair on the trail and suspect that anyone wanting to travel the two-plus miles of the trail would have enjoyed the natural beauty. I see a lot of big-wheel strollers that do not slow down when they leave the concrete and go into the gravel. The city could have easily purchased a couple of big-wheel wheelchairs to loan to anyone wanting to use the trail for a lot less money and left the natural beauty of the trail and reduced the hazard for the 40 or more people running the trail daily. I suspect the only experience the people making the decision had with the trail was in a golf cart.
It would be too much to ask the city to remove the concrete from the trail and add a little gravel in the low spots. Those in a position of authority, please do not pave or concrete our scenic trails. There are very few left. We like the Appalachian, Pacific Crest and Florida trails just fine in their natural beauty. Allow the people who actually use the trails to recommend or improve the trails.
— Donny Bryan, Richmond Hill