With nearly a quarter-million dollars in hand, work could begin quickly on the long-delayed trails, or paths, along upper Meadowlark Lane from Loma Larga to Rio Rancho. A state grant for $243,500 was formally accepted by the Village Council at its September 28 meeting to “plan, design and construct the West Meadowlark Lane Trail.” Planning has, in fact, been under way for more than a decade. The proposal to construct bicycle lanes or paths that would link bike lanes along Loma Larga to those in Rio Rancho has been endlessly scrutinized since 2009, and was to have been implemented at roughly the same time the roadway was  realigned two years ago. But it’s complicated. Corrales got a grant for almost as much, $214,000, in 2011 but turned the grant back to the Mid-Region Council of Governments due to strong opposition among homeowners along upper Meadowlark who insisted the initial plan would cause multiple problems including damage from stormwater drainage and collisions with cyclists.

An opposition petition was presented to the Village Council at its April 12, 2011 meeting. The project was stopped even though it had been planned for at least three years. (See Corrales Comment series on trails, starting with Vol. XXVIII, No.18, November 7, 2009  “First Steps to Implement Village-wide Trails Plan”) Opposition apparently arose after then-Mayor Phil Gasteyer called a neighborhood meeting in 2011 to discuss the project, as he said he did with other roadway projects. He said several residents were upset that they hadn’t known of the project earlier. At an August, 2009 council meeting, a resolution was approved to design and build bike lanes and a five-foot wide compacted earth trail along upper West Meadowlark. At the time, the mayor was confident he would get the bike paths built during 2011.

Fast forward, and forward and forward to 2018 when reconstruction of Meadowlark from Loma Larga to Rio Rancho was set to begin. On-the-ground work relocating utility lines inside the public right-of-way was completed by the end of February 2018, which included substantial earthmoving.  Awarding of a contract to actually rebuild the road was to have been accomplished by then. But another hang-up arose: getting the N.M. Department of Transportation’s concurrence with design changes to the westerly end of the proposed bike trail. NMDOT had withheld approval for the earlier design that depended on a waiver from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The original engineering plan was rejected because the slope was too severe (both east-west and north-south) for persons in a wheelchair. A proposed work-around also failed to materialize.

The steep slope at the top of Corrales’ part on Meadowlark Lane was recognized as a potential problem from the earliest days of planning for the trails project. That was one reason why, in the early days of community input, the equestrian path was proposed for the north side of the road (since hooves could manage the slope without difficulty.) But as the years wore on, alignment for the horse path was switched from the north side to the south, primarily based on public input. That put the multi-use trail along the north side of the road, which led to the ADA issue.

Village officials decided to move ahead with reconstructing the roadway while  leaving the trails component for a later phase. As the road was being finished, Village Administrator Ron Curry said the trails needed a start-from-scratch re-thinking, and promised a thorough public involvement effort. But in July 2021, at the first public meeting to launch a re-start, only three members of the public attended since almost no notice was given. At that session, Village Engineer Steve Grollman explained his preliminary design for a bike path and horse trail. That was followed by another public meeting via Zoom on September 22. Again the meeting was not announced in time to be published in Corrales Comment before it was held. Meetings are also usually announced at the Village of Corrales website, http://www.corrales-nm.org.

This time, Mayor Jo Anne Roake mentioned the Zoom meeting in her September “Mayor’s Message,” noting that “Door hanger notifications will also be hung on the doors of homes off Meadowlark, especially in the cul-de-sacs. Please spread the word.” People who live along upper Meadowlark are not the only villagers interested in potential trails for bikes, horses and those on human feet. Corraleños living throughout the village have decades-long involvement in what’s at stake in pending decisions.

(See Corrales Comment Vol.XXX, No.10, July 9, 2011 “Corrales Gives Back $160,000 for Upper Meadowlark Trail” and Vol.XXX No.16 October 8, 2011 “Upper Meadowlark Task Force Meets Mondays.” and Vol.XXXX No.1 February 20, 2021 “Corrales Returns $167,417 Meant for Meadowlark Trails.”)

People who live along upper Meadowlark are not the only villagers interested in potential trails for bikes, horses and those on human feet. Corraleños living throughout the village have decades-long involvement in what’s at stake in pending decisions. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXX, No.10, July 9, 2011 “Corrales Gives Back $160,000 for Upper Meadowlark Trail” and Vol.XXX No.16 October 8, 2011 “Upper Meadowlark Task Force Meets Mondays.” and Vol.XXXX No.1 February 20, 2021 “Corrales Returns $167,417 Meant for Meadowlark Trails.”)

During his July 24 briefing,   Village Engineer Steve Grollman proposed constructing a ten-foot wide  asphalt path between the subdivisions’ walls on the south side of the road and the existing eastbound driving lane. That path, for pedestrians and cyclists, would be designated for bikes headed uphill, or westward, only. Cyclists headed eastward, downhill, would be expected to use the regular driving lane along with cars and trucks. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXX No. 11 July 24, 2021 “Upper Meadowlark Trails Plan Has Uphill Bike Path.”)

A six-inch high curb would divide the bike path from the adjacent driving lane. At each of the five roads leading into subdivisions along the south side of upper Meadowlark, Grollman said crosswalks would be painted on the trail pavement, according to Grollman. Listening to the discussion, which included no objections from members of the Bicycle, Pedestrial Advisory Commission, Curry was optimistic. “I would like to think it could be done by the end of the year,” he ventured. At that time, Grollman said he was about two-thirds finished with the design.

 In July 2013, villagers convened for a planning charrette to develop realistic proposals for better using the exceptionally wide right-of-way. The sessions led by Architectural Research Consultants under contract to the Village attempted to resolve ongoing conflicts over the future of upper Meadowlark Neighbor-against-neighbor conflict had erupted over anticipated disruptions from the earlier funded project to construct bike trails along one or both sides of upper Meadowlark.

The council chambers had been packed for the contentious April 12, 2011 council meeting at which the Meadowlark trail (as a stand-alone project not accompanying re-construction of the driving lanes as well) was voted down. Several of those residents spoke at the council meeting, citing safety issues, especially given the sight distances when  pulling out from their driveways onto Meadowlark, and drainage concerns.

Recently reflecting on the saga of struggles to install trails along Meadowlark west of Loma Larga, a nearby resident, Linda Hoeltke, wondered. “I am not sure why the plans for upper Meadowlark are so difficult. It should line up with Rio Rancho’s construction, with landscaping similar to, or better than, Rio Rancho’s. Just sayin.’”

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