Temple Hills group continues down its path

Temple Hills residents are pressing the city to implement pathway project that would provide safe access off the hill in an emergency.

September 01, 2011|By Barbara Diamond,

A group of Temple Hills residents want a downhill pathway project to be implemented, but the city is concerned that either an approval or denial could lead to a lawsuit.

The Temple Hills Pathways Committee is asking the city for funds and a timeline to make neglected and unfinished public walkways usable for neighborhood strolls, safe passage to schools and egress from the hillside in emergencies.

"What tremendous foresight Joe Thurston had when he established the original city tract maps with 5-foot public walkways as integral parts of his layout in 1921," said committee member Caroline Wright in a presentation to the council in May. "Since that time, the pathways have been used by children as routes to walk to and from school and by others to get up and down the hill. They are also used by neighborhood walks and to visit friends on neighboring streets."


Although designated as public pathways, the project was never completed. Implementation of the project was recommended in 2004 by the Open Space Committee, of which resident Bob Borthwick was a member.

"The committee felt (the pathways) would be a worthy addition to the trails that link the town together," Borthwick said Monday.

"They are steep, 5-foot-wide, city-owned lots that dead-end to the left going up Temple Hills Drive, beginning just after you pass the hairpin turn, and placed so people could filter down from the neighborhood without walking on the drive, which is scary," Borthwick said. "But what happened was the intended stairs, similar to those constructed to connect Broadway to Lower Cliff Drive, were never constructed."

City Senior Planner Scott Drapkin, staff liaison to the Open Space Committee, said Tuesday that the area's topography and path width put constraints on implementation.

"These pathways were ahead of their time," Drapkin said. "In fact, they were the subject of a planning study. But the 5-foot width is troublesome."

The trouble is fitting construction equipment in the tight space without impacting neighbors, who also might not be thrilled to have the public strolling up and down paths near their homes.

City officials consulted with legal counsel about the pathways in the City Council's Aug. 16 closed session under the heading of anticipated litigation.

"There are concerns that, whatever the city decides, it could be sued," said City Attorney Philip Kohn. "I could foresee a claim for damages ensuing out of this — for instance, if prescriptive rights had been established."


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