City looking into safer path at Top of the World

At the request of residents, including school children, the City Council on Tuesday unanimously supported the idea of a safer, albeit more expensive, pathway at Top of the World.

The proposed pathway would be farther from nearby homes than initially suggested.

The council favored one of three alternatives city staff presented for a pedestrian path that would connect Alta Laguna Boulevard to the fire road between the Top of the World and Arch Beach Heights neighborhoods.

Pedestrians, including Top of the World Elementary School students, and cyclists currently use a series of trails that traverse county, city and private properties to make that connection.

The preferred alternative would be more narrow in spots, about 4 feet, and cost about $200,000 more for a bridge to cross a ravine and excavation of a hillside.

A public easement exists on private property at 2771 Alta Laguna Blvd., a particularly steep and rocky area, according to a city staff report.

Brandon Britt, a fourth-grader at Top of the World, walks and bikes to school and baseball practice.

"The trail is very dangerous," Brandon said. "If you fall you will be injured badly because there are only hard, slippery and jagged rocks. Parents with strollers also can't walk with their children because the rocks are too hard for a stroller to go over. I hope the trail is fixed before next year."

Karen Schwager walks the area and said mountain bikers come dangerously close to pedestrians.

"This [proposed] plan is the most narrow so you can't really accommodate at the same time bikers, people with strollers, 6-year-olds and 70-year-olds walking," Schwager said. "Is it possible to have a dual path? I would like to see a path dedicated to mountain bikers. They go at speeds pedestrians are wary of."

Access out in case of a fire is also critical, said resident Ellen Kempler, who said the path issue has been discussed for at least 10 years.

"I know from talking to people in Top of the World who were here in 1993 (during the Laguna fire) that somebody took a rock and broke that gate to get over to the other side because there was no one around to do it," Kempler said. "The fire department was responding to the fire in the canyon. We need to be able to get through in an emergency especially this summer. We're already having red-flag alerts."

The city has $380,000 budgeted for the project, including $125,000 from grant funds, the staff report said.

Attorney Gene Gratz, who represents one of two property owners on Sommet Du Monde, an area near the proposed path, said his clients are considering covering the additional costs for a pathway that would curl around existing stairs and be farther from houses.

"It creates a scenic vista for those using the path and makes it feasible for people pushing a baby carriage," Gratz told the council.

City Manager John Pietig suggested the narrower path with the possibility of increasing its width and creating a potion just for mountain bikers.

"I like the idea of separating the bike path from the walking path and put signage up that would prevent bikers from crossing paths with walkers," Councilman Kelly Boyd said.

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