By Jane Smith

    A small but vocal group of beach property owners persuaded the City Commission to revisit a December resolution supporting the East Coast Greenway.
    They reached out to state Rep. Bill Hager, who sent a letter to the Delray Beach mayor in early May.
    “While the expansion of sidewalks and bike lanes may work in other areas, the corridors through Delray may not have much area to work with,” Hager wrote. “A number of constituents have addressed their concerns to me on this issue and I hope that this project is handled with great care and the input of the residents who will potentially be impacted adversely by this matter.”
    As a result, the Greenway, approved in December on a consent agenda, will come back to the commission for discussion in July.
    In Delray Beach, the northern path would begin on Federal Highway, travel south to George Bush Boulevard, turn east until A1A and then south to Highland Beach. Delray Beach has 1.3 miles of sidewalk that is 9.6 feet wide along the ocean and can be used as the trail.
    The East Coast Greenway is designed for cyclists and walkers to use from Maine to Key West. In Boca Raton, 4.7 miles were dedicated in 2012 to the route, sometimes called the Urban Appalachian Trail.
    “It would be a disaster,” said John Cartier, a Greenway critic who is out of town for the summer. “People would be urinating in public, possibly sleeping on the beach. You never know what will happen with the drug addicts all over.”
    A fellow critic, Michael Owen, will be in town for the July meeting.
    “We feel the traffic is terrible already, backing up into Highland Beach,” he said. “If you push the pedestrian button to cross Linton Boulevard at A1A, you add another 30 seconds to the light.”
    A Delray Beach organization that advocates for cyclists and pedestrians supports the Greenway.
    “The East Coast Greenway is for local people who like to ride bikes or walk,” said Charlie Bonfield, president of Safety As Floridians Expect, known as SAFE. “We heard about it in November and decided that it was something SAFE should be involved in.”
    To counter Cartier and others, Bonfield said, “They are misinformed. It’s nothing like the Appalachian Trail. It’s not a hiking trail. We won’t have people with backpacks coming through.”
    Delray Beach has laws that prohibit sleeping on the beach, in the pavilions or on the benches, he said.
    The Greenway would coordinate with the Florida Department of Transportation, which owns most of the land that its path would take in Delray Beach.
    FDOT played a key role in the creation of SAFE, Bonfield said.
    In 2003 when FDOT wanted to add bike lanes and sidewalks along A1A, a small group of Delray Beach residents opposed their creation. They went to the mayor at the time and he intervened for the residents to stop the project, Bonfield said.
    SAFE formed in 2004 to fight for the bike lanes and sidewalks. Seven residents collected 6,000 signatures at city events and took them to the then-mayor, who said the city doesn’t honor petitions, according to Bonfield.
    Next the group went to Fort Lauderdale, where the FDOT district office oversees Delray Beach. The group convinced the director to fight for pedestrian and cyclist access along A1A, Bonfield said. As a result, the state road has bike lanes and sidewalks in Delray Beach.

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