Several residents showed up at the Nov. 19 Common Council meeting to express their concerns about a closed gate at Lindsay Park that limits access to the Little Wolf River Trail.
The trail is on private property.
Tara Pachan addressed the council about how it would be beneficial to the city to have the gate open to allow easy access to the walking trail. She said the trail was made possible because of donations from residents of the city. If access to the trail is limited, she said that may cause residents to decide not to donate money in future fundraisers.
She said she was told the gate is closed in the winter to prevent vandalism in the park. She said in her opinion, a closed, but unlocked gate does not stop vandals from entering the park.
Pachan added that she looked up the city ordinance for the park and it stated the park would be closed from 11 p.m.-5 p.m. She said the ordinance said nothing about the park being closed for winter.
To conclude her address, she said the trail will bring people to Manawa, which will bring revenue to the city.
Harry Schaefer spoke next and asked the council why the lights by the tennis court are on at night. The tennis courts are near the trail.
Director of Public Works Frank Jaeger said one light is left on to serve as a night light.
John Smith, owner of Smith’s Manawa Steakhouse, agreed with Pachan that closing the gate does not stop vandals. He said a closed gate stops police from patrolling.
Smith said the rumor he heard that nobody uses the trail is false. In addition to Manawa residents using the trail, Smith said people from other communities use the trail.
He added that the city doesn’t need more restrictions it needs more people coming to the city.
Mark Craig, who owns property that the trail goes through, said he attended a previous council meeting and was told the gate would be closed in the winter. He then told the council winter doesn’t start in November.
A also affirmed that people use the trail.
“I live on the trail. I see people on the trail,” Craig said.
He also questioned why the “Park Closed” sign was put on the gate the same day as the council meeting.
Jaeger responded that the council meeting had nothing to with when sign was placed on the gate.
Dave Augustine, a member of the trail committee, told the council there needs to be better information available so people know where the trail starts. He said things get lost in “hearsay and gossip.”
Pachan then informed the board that she had started a petition to have the city leave the gate open. She said in less than two days she had received 125 signatures.
She also said if people see the “Park Closed” sign, they assume there is no access to the trail from the park.
City Clerk/Treasurer Cheryl Hass said she heard about the petition. She said she heard that the petition was distributed in the local bars.
In a follow-up interview, Hass said she didn’t know how the petition started, but she was approached by someone while she was at the bowling alley in Manawa. This person asked her if she knew about the petition. She said the person who approached her was implying that the petition would get city employees in trouble.
Mayor Debby Nolan closed the discussion about the closed gate and said it will go to the Improvement and Services Committee for discussion. The time and date of that meeting is to be determined.
Since the council meeting on Nov. 19, a sign has been placed in the area of the closed gate that states, “Walking trail open. Go around gate.”