Column: Effort to close Lower Cascades Road to cars is an insult to residents

So the discussion on closing Lower Cascades Road is on again!

This is a very old road. Troops may have marched by this creek on their way to the Civil War. Horses were watered at the now barricaded ford of the creek. Bloomington residents washed their cars here in the early days of the automobile. This is the first Bloomington park.

People have forded the little creek and children have played here for probably 150 years until it was closed off recently with a highway barricade. I have picnicked, walked and driven through our first city park for 60 years now.

My grandson and I have walked to the falls regularly for the past eight years. We used to be able to ford the creek and park and walk. Now it is a hike to get there of about 1/4 mile.

We don’t ride bikes to the park. I think the estimate is about 2% to 5% of residents in Bloomington even ride bikes.

From 2021: City to reopen Lower Cascades Park road to cars after 'substantial' upgrades, repairs

Over the years we have seen a few riders coming through the park each time we’ve come. Maybe every half hour or so a small pod of stretch pants-wearing young riders come zipping though. Good for them. We share the old road with them and the speed cushions keep the occasional automobile at safe speeds for all.

Max and I kept coming to the park when the road was closed due to the rebuilding of the park. Nice work for the most part! The permanence of the new massive stone creek walls shows they will be there for another hundred years or so. Bravo! But when the south end of the road was closed during construction, we always found a lot of broken bottle glass and debris. This is where the permanent road closing is being proposed.

We did not feel secure walking back to the falls then, where we found more broken glass and vandalism. Good planners know the concept of “eyes on the street” providing safety to residents. This applies to parks as well.

This is why members of the parks department did not favor closing the road the first time this came around. The community spoke loudly and clearly about not wanting this section of the historic highway closed. They told stories of game day traffic and how this allowed them to get to their homes when traffic backs up.

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This is also a safety issue for emergency vehicles in similar traffic situations. So this is about public safety and the community good that the old road has always provided.

In addition, closing the road is discriminating against the elderly. Closing off the road takes away a pleasant ride along the creek from everyone but the bike riders. This is an example of people in our local government who just think they know what is best for all of us. They are willing to take away our full use the oldest park in the city for a small minority of residents who don’t want to share the road. This is simply wrong and outrageous.

Two council members are sister and husband to a city planner who is part of the driving force behind taking away our enjoyment of the park. They want to drive a bike-first policy for a small percentage of our park’s users, in spite of obvious and strong community feedback. What an insult to the people who went to meetings to explain the issues and make their voices heard the first time!

What has happened to our local government that it cares so little for the residents they represent?

Chris Sturbaum is a former city council president and owner of Golden Hands Construction of Bloomington.

This article originally appeared on The Herald-Times: Columnist writes effort to close park road benefits few in Bloomington