Businesses OK with bike trail idea

Published 1:43 pm Wednesday, November 23, 2016


By Ryan Kushner

Staff writer

Multiple businesses on the east side of South Church Street have expressed few qualms with the possible installation of the proposed Park-to-Park Bike and Pedestrian Path on their side of the street.

The proposed multi-use path would be 10-feet-wide, according to Smithfield Planning and Zoning Commissioner William Saunders, but that width could vary in areas, expanding to as wide as 12 feet in some places if necessary, and shrinking to 8 feet in other tighter areas along the road.

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Mike Smith, owner of the 7-Eleven on the east side of South Church Street, said he views the addition of a trail as a potential agent for more business at his store.

“I think it increases the traffic flow,” Smith said of the trail. “If you get more bicyclers and things like that using that path, I think it would be good for the store, I really do. It might even help the traffic flow, so you won’t have cars getting stuck behind bicycles coming up the road,” said Smith. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Mack Patel, who owns the Supreme gas station adjacent to the 7-Eleven, also said he liked the idea of the trail.

“I think it could be good for the people in the town and make for a healthier environment,” said Patel.  

Patel said the 10-foot span of such a path was no deterrent for him, and that the impact of the trail on his business would likely be a positive one, along with making the road safer for the cyclists.

Jesse Witten, owner of Q-Daddy’s, a new barbeque restaurant slated to open soon, was excited by the possibility of the trail, calling it “the coolest.”

“It would definitely be another outstanding attraction to the town,” said Witten. “I don’t know how many people would go by, but any increase, no matter how small, in visibility is wonderful. Especially if you don’t have to pay for it.”

Witten said he could understand why some business owners would be against the idea of the trail, however.

“I think a lot of people would be upset about losing 5 or 6 feet,” said Witten. “For the businesses, their biggest issue might be parking.”

Witten noted that his restaurant would likely only lose curb space should the path be located on his side of the street. 

“From a business standpoint … it would go back to that increase in visibility and a draw to the town,” said Witten of the benefits. “People from outside the town might come because they know there’s a nice hike, or there’s a nice trail with good food and good drinks right along the way.”

Bob Wiatt of Heritage Antiques said he had no objection to a path on his side of the street, as it would not affect his business, which is located down a driveway further back from the road.

“I wouldn’t object to it, though I expect that many others along here would,” said Wiatt of the proposed 10 foot width of the trail.  

“I don’t understand why they need anything that wide. Seems like 5 feet would be plenty,” said Wiatt.   

Wiatt said he doesn’t foresee any potential increase in business from the proposed trail.

The location of Smithfield’s portion of Isle of Wight County’s proposed Bike and Pedestrian Trail, which aims to connect Carrollton’s Nike Park with Windsor Castle Park, has been under debate by the Smithfield Town Council for more than a year now.

While Isle of Wight nears the completion of plans to have the trail run from Nike Park Road to Battery Park Road, the Smithfield Town Council has expressed concern that the installation of a 10-foot-wide multi-use trail might be a hindrance to businesses located on the east side of South Church Street, which, incidentally, would be the most logical route from Battery Park Road to Cypress Creek Bridge, according to Saunders.

The council reallocated over $20,000 in funds last month to conduct another in-depth study on the impact of three potential route locations, which, besides both sides of South Church Street, would include two variations on either side down John Rolfe Drive or Grimes Street.

The material used could also dictate the width, according to Saunders. If the path is concrete, it could be slimmer, but if the path is gravel it would require a shoulder on either side, making the path wider, Saunders said.

Council member Milton Cook has noted that businesses on the east side of South Church Street could lose up to 15 feet due to the trail, which could lead to problems for parking or access.

“I agreed that this subject needed to be studied so that we would have a clearer picture on the impact,” Cook said in an email. “You cannot make a decision like this without all of the information.”

“I did talk to a few homeowners that are further towards the Cypress Creek Bridge that were not all that happy about it,” Cook added.  {/mprestriction}