The La Crosse Common Council chose to see the rezoning of two parcels on 29th Street as a “moot point” and not a benchmark for the contested plans for the Grandma’s Gateway trail Thursday evening, after voting in favor of the change.
The two lots will be used as an access point for the new trails scaling up Grandad Bluff, and were previously zoned as residential and were changed to conservancy, curbing all future development on the land.
The access points could have still been built on the city-owned lots with a residential zoning, but changing it to conservancy was part of the regular trail-planning process, according to city officials.
Many people still saw the passing of the rezoning as the final green light for the project, which only had to be approved through the parks department.
“We do not need to move forward quickly with this,” said council member Larry Sleznikow, who oversees the district where Grandma’s Gateway would be constructed. “The bluff is not going anywhere.
The rezoning passed at minimum vote of 9-3. It needed a three-fourths vote due to a high number of petitions signed against it.
“The bottom line is they could put an access point here regardless of what they do with the rezoning,” council president Martin Gaul said, who voted in favor of the rezoning, emphasizing he didn’t want to give anyone a “false hope” that the plans for the trail would change.
Parks director Jay Odegaard said that the parks department is planning on holding a public meeting in the near future to take public input on the designs of the trail.
“We’re trying to change the unsustainable trails into sustainable trails,” Odegaard said at Thursday night’s meeting, emphasizing that Grandma’s Gateway would help them address the damaging rogue trails that already exist on the bluff and would give them more access to it for maintenance.
The plans for Grandma’s Gateway came to light in January, and were met with opposition from some residents on both 29th Street and Ebner Coulee Road, two streets that encompass the bluff.
The city of La Crosse has been working on the plans with Outdoor Recreation Alliance since 2018, when the two groups received a grant from the International Mountain Bicycling Association.
Some residents were initially upset that many of them weren’t told about the trail until later in the process, but also pointed to environmental worries and traffic safety as issues they were opposed to the trail.
The city is optimistic about the trails, hoping it is another piece to a much larger puzzle of more accessibility to the La Crosse area blufflands.
Construction on Grandma’s Gateway is slated to begin this summer.