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Sidewalks and road improvements meet resistance in Coconino Estates
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Sidewalks and road improvements meet resistance in Coconino Estates

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As the city works on road improvements and the installation of sidewalks in the neighborhood of Coconino Estates, several of the residents are unhappy with the changes.

Leslie Pickard, who has lived with her husband at the corner of Beal and Fort Valley Road since 2006, is one of those residents. For weeks, Pickard has been trying to save two large spruce trees in her front yard.

According to city project manager Eli Reisner, the two trees are within the city’s right of way and thus will have to come down to make way for new sidewalks and a widening of Beal Road near the intersection.

But Pickard is hoping to change the project, and says she sees no need for the city to install sidewalks on both sides of the road. For the last several weeks, Pickard has called on neighbors to join her fight on several large signs she has placed in her front yard.

“They’re magnificent shade trees. They’re sound and wind buffers, and snow buffers in the winter,” Pickard said. "I don’t know how else to describe it. It's just so frustrating to be told that, for a sidewalk that one or two people might use, [the city must] take down trees in my yard."

Instead, Pickard said, she believes the city should only install a sidewalk on the south side of Beal, where most of the homes don’t have trees that would be effected.

Several other neighbors on the north side of Beal are in a similar situation, Pickard said, and have joined her in trying to prevent to project.

Pickard said the city has offered to give her two trees to replant in her yard but she said once sidewalks are put in, there will be little room to actually plant them.

The Coconino Estates Improvements project, paid for by a bond approved by voters in 2014, is set to repave some streets and provide sidewalks on Beal Road and on Navajo Road and Drive.

The project will also replace sewer infrastructure in the area, some of which is 70 years old.

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Reisner said the installation of sidewalks on Beal will make the road, which already has a higher level of vehicle traffic than surrounding streets, much safer for pedestrians.

“These trees were the topic of many design meetings and multiple design revisions to the alignment of Beal, trying to avoid them with the proposed improvements. Given the constraints, the city ultimately decided that the proposed function and safety improvements that the whole community could benefit from outweighed the benefits of the trees remaining,” Reisner said in an email.

Reisner added that while there are obviously some residents who don’t want the sidewalks, majority of the neighborhood supports the changes.

The decision to install sidewalks in the first place was based on the results of a neighborhood survey conducted by the city, Reisner said. That survey showed the majority of the neighborhood was in support of adding sidewalks on both sides of Beal, Navajo Road and Navajo Drive.

Construction on the project began on Navajo Road began in May and the entire project is set to be completed by the fall of 2022.

On June 16, the Flagstaff City Council also approved a plan to use the former public works yard as a temporary storage and staging area for construction equipment and materials as the Coconino Estates improvement project continues.

At the meeting, a number of residents also commented in opposition to that plan, citing traffic and noise concerns. Neighbors also pointed to past council discussions regarding the effort to turn the former works yard into an expanded section of Thorpe Park.

As such, neighbors said the city should looks elsewhere when looking for a construction-staging area.

Residents also worried that while the city would first only use the yard for this project, its use would continue as the the city’s Rio de Flag flood control project is built.

But city engineer Bret Petersen said while he understands the resident’s concerns, the location was ideal for storing contraction equipment and materials for the project.

Utilizing the yard would mean workers could store materials less than a mile from where work was occurring and eliminate the need to drive materials back and forth across the city. That would save the city money and would better fit with the city’s climate plan by reducing truck emissions through cross-city trips, Petersen said.

“These trees were the topic of many design meetings and multiple design revisions to the alignment of Beal, trying to avoid them with the proposed improvements. Given the constraints, the city ultimately decided that the proposed function and safety improvements that the whole community could benefit from outweighed the benefits of the trees remaining.”

-- Eli Reisner, city project manager

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