The truth will finally out

Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it. Jonathan Swift

Turns out that falsehoods also have a longer shelf life.

I was angry, but not particularly surprised, to get an email from our neighborhood association alerting me to a proposed city charter amendment that will allow Gainesville to spend money on paved “trails and transportation corridors” within the Hogtown Creek Watershed.

It stated that voters passed that prohibition on paving back in 1998 when the city “was planning to cut down large areas of trees and vegetation to pave what was termed a ‘transportation corridor’ large enough for trucks from the Loblolly…through Ring Park.”

Wow! Trucks careening up and down Hogtown Creek.

Which was nonsense then and it’s still nonsense.

In fact, the city wanted to build a seven-mile creekside bicycle path. Like the Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail, only this one through the middle of town.

More than two decades later I wasn’t surprised to learn that the falsehoods that drove that initiative still has legs.

Just to be clear. Nobody was trying to pull the wool over anybody’s eyes when the Hogtown Creek Greenway was proposed. It had been the subject of extensive research and public discussion for years.

The city had already assembled most of the necessary land. And in 1992 Gainesville got a $1.5 million state grant to help built the trail. Gainesville’s greenway won out over 50 other projects to get that money.

And for good reason. The trail, according to its 1994 master plan, would accomplish several worthwhile goals…chief among them to help “protect, restore and preserve the remaining ecologically sensitive” features of Gainesville’s much-abused creek.

Back in the day, then-City Commissioner David Coffee and I took a ride on fat tired bikes along the proposed route of the trail. What we found along the way was instructive and disturbing – abandoned appliances, litter-strewn wetlands, eroded creek banks…all indicative of an ecosystem suffering from classic out-of-sight-out-of-mind neglect.

The greenway would have helped instill a community stewardship ethic for the creek. Because that’s what trails do…people love them, they use them and then they want to protect what it is they are enjoying.

So how did we go from stewardship to the creekside truck corridor that stampeded voters into killing the greenway?

It was clear that the initiative was largely driven by people who owned homes along the creek and who didn’t want their privacy invaded by “those people” – i.e. people, possibly of other races and backgrounds, who might enjoy the greenway.

To appreciate the irony of that ginned-up backlash you need to remember that the proliferation of homes built too close to the water is itself a major source of Hogtown’s pollution and erosion problems.

Listen, approving the city charter amendment to remove that misguided paving prohibition won’t automatically get us a greenway. There’s no money earmarked for it and there might not be for a long time.

But we know that people love trails and that they use them. So much so that even our conservative Republican legislature has committed millions of dollar to extend and connect Florida’s fragmented greenway network.

Maybe we will get that trail someday. But at least let’s finally cut the legs out from under the falsehoods that killed the Hogtown Creek Greenway.

Vote yes on: Eliminating Restrictions on Construction of Paved Surfaces on City-Owned Land.

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