11 August 2014

Happy Hollow Trail Conditions‏

This email was sent 11 August 2014 to Jean Stothert, mayor of the city of Omaha; copies were sent to an Omaha World-Herald reporter and a reporter for a local television station.
Update: Laura Berry, a KPTM - Fox 42 reporter, did a fine job of gathering the details associated with the issues along this trail. We spent from 10:30 a.m. to noon getting video and discussing the trail on Monday. It was a busy time. Runners, several women with strollers, a bicyclist or two and others were using the trail. There were some "perfect" views caught on video, which conveyed the value of the trail, and its need for attention. One passerby waved to indicate his appreciation. A report was given on their Monday evening newscast. There is also a text summary posted.

This is my latest communication among the many email or calls already made to the mayors office and Omaha Parks department in regards to errant trees along the Happy Hollow trail, on the east side of Memorial Park.

Previously Parks Department personnel addressed two sites, but only trimmed a limited space and did not concern themselves with suitable maintenance along the remainder of the section of trail between Dodge Street and Underwood Avenue.

This morning, while riding my bicycle along the trail, there were at least ten places where it was necessary or nearly so to lower my head to avoid it getting whacked by an errant branch. There are additional spots where growth along the west side of the trail inhibit use of the entire walk. There is one previously trimmed spot where a single barren twig is hanging low and could, for a tall bicycle rider, whack them on the head or maybe something worse.

Most of the problem sites are along the northern two-thirds of this section of the trail, especially from Davenport Street north to Underwood Avenue.

Similar conditions of "low growth" occur along the trail on the west side of Memorial Park, especially near its southern end, by Dodge Street.

Why is it so difficult to get this trail properly maintained and cared for? It's certainly not due to a lack of money or staff time, since workers could trim trees rather than incessantly mow grass.

In the most recent effort to get this taken care of, a parks maintenance supervisor said the trees would be trimmed the next week. After waiting for that week and then another week, nothing has yet to be done. Is it city policy to mislead the public on action regarding issues of citizen concern?

This inadequate response to multiple emails and phone calls is apparently indicative of several things:

1) failure of Omaha Parks to properly maintain a popular and well-used recreational trail
2) inadequate management of Parks staff since they were directed to address a single point of a problem - twice - rather than taking the time to complete similar work along the entire trail; this wastes staff time and monetary resources since workers have to return again and certainly again to finish the entire job
3) instances of misleading statements and lack of follow-through shows a disregard of city staff for citizen input; and parks workers do not need to be rude when spoken to as they are working in the park and an attempt was made to courteously talk to them about so a potentially fallen limb could be removed (which was not, by the way)
4) lack of doing a complete job and failure to follow through shows a disregard to trail users since the trail is not being suitably cared for, since addition to errant limbs, there are unsightly and messy weeds and loose gravel (from last winters snow removal) along the trail near Happy Hollow Boulevard
5) with the focus on wellness within Omaha, including bicycling and walking, why isn't the trail a completely welcoming place; is there no regard for wellness by city officials and the mayor's office?

Trimming work along this entire stretch of the Happy Hollow Trail could be done in a morning with proper tools and two workers. Does the public need to do the work ourselves?

Will parks now ravage the trees when they do the work, out of anger and a rush to deal with this issue?

When will trail maintenance be done?

p.s. When will Bank of the West pay for turf repair along Dodge street after the damage that occurred during the concert they sponsored at Memorial Park on June 27th?

August 14 Addendum

Here are some pictures of the unnecessary conditions along the Happy Hollow Trail, taken 13 August.

Tree branches overhanging the trail.

Untrimmed tree in desperate need of some selective removal of excessive branches.

Weedy growth overtaking the railing and edge of the trail.

Weedy grass and gravel along the edge of the trail, adjacent to Happy Hollow Boulevard.

There has been no response received from the office of Mayor Jean Stothert, nor from Brook Bench, director of Omaha Parks, Recreation and Public Property department.

What also happened was a maintenance supervisor could not give a definite timeframe on when these issues will be addressed. In fact he was miffed about the news report, said he would not talk to me again and that the parks director should be called and finished with a comment that he was: "tired of you making shit up." and then he hung up.