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An effort to make scenic West Lake Parker Drive safer for bicyclists was boosted when some lakefront property owners came up with an idea: What if we donate property needed to double the width of the sidewalk? 

The idea emerged after road planners presented the Lakeshore Neighbors’ Association with three alternatives for providing bike lanes between Memorial Boulevard and Bella Vista Street, city Engineer Joe Baan told city commissioners this morning.

The residents’ idea of doubling the sidewalk from 5 feet to 10 is better than the other three alternatives, but it’s one the city staffers didn’t propose because of the cost and complication of obtaining rights of way or easements from the 34 property owners involved, Baan said.

“We got impressive support from the neighborhood. That will help us make it happen,” he told commissioners.

So far, 15 of the 34 property owners have signed on to the idea of donating right of way, Baan said. Of the rest, 9 are undecided, 9 have not responded, and one couple said they are unwilling to donate the needed property.

One of the undecided owners is former City Commissioner Keith Merritt. He did not return a phone call to his law office seeking comment.

The city’s right of way currently ends at the eastern edge of the sidewalk on the lake side of Lake Parker Drive. Most of the lakefront parcels belongs to the homeowners directly across the street.

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Under the proposal, the asphalt sidewalk would widen toward the lake, bordered by two feet of level grass and a 3-foot grade transition toward the lake. So each property owner would give up 10 feet in easements.

The estimated cost for the improvements is $694,000.

Lake Parker Drive is considered a community street and part of the Lake to Lake Bikeway, transportation planner Chuck Barmby said. And the trail will provide a connection between central Lakeland and both Lake Parker Park and the proposed Tenoroc Trail, he said.

The bike path will help the Midtown Community Redevelopment Agency’s efforts to “regenerate” nearby neighborhoods, Planning Director Jim Studiale said.

Other alternatives that were considered included:

  • No bikeway. To do that would continue safety hazards to bicyclists, Baan said.
  • Add two one-way bike lanes. The disadvantage would be removal of the turn lanes.
  • Add a two-way bicycle track on the lake side of the road. That would require more paving and the costly moving of trees and utility poles.

Next steps, according to Baan’s presentation to the commissioners, are to acquire right of way or easements, plan for the design and construction and start more immediate improvements, such as better lighting and curb ramps.

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Barry Friedman founded Lkldnow.com in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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