Boy, those were some debates, and it’s not like they took place a lifetime ago.

    Boy, those were some debates, and it’s not like they took place a lifetime ago.

    It was only a few years ago that Public Works Director Pat Kelly, a big proponent of sidewalks, convinced the Crookston City Council that new street construction projects in Crookston from that point on should also include sidewalks, if the street up to that point had no sidewalk.

    The reasoning was based on multiple rationales. For one thing, the inconsistent approach to sidewalks on some streets and in some neighborhoods in this town borders on the comical. When you see a sidewalk in front of this house, but no sidewalk in front of any houses for a block or so, and then another couple houses with sidewalks, you can’t help but wonder what the decision-makers were smoking at the time.

    Kelly and the council in those days wanted to fix those irregularities, but they also wanted Crookston residents living in a variety of neighborhoods to have an easy, safe and convenient way to get around when they chose not to drive a vehicle. They wanted people to be able to get to destination points in neighborhoods like schools, for instance. They also wanted to enhance the sense of community in various neighborhoods, and sidewalks typically do just that.

    But the policy turned out not to be worth the paper it was written on, Mayor Wayne Melbye reminded everyone once again the other day. When the first street project came up and a new sidewalk was included, affected property owners freaked out. They didn’t want the expense, they didn’t want to have to clear snow and otherwise maintain a sidewalk, and they didn’t want to lose part of their yard in favor of giving kids and other pedestrians a place to walk, play, or do whatever in front of their houses.

    The council relented, and that first street project did not include a sidewalk.

    But then it went further. Property owners with a sidewalk already in front of their house got up in arms, too, when a street project in front of their house included the replacement of the old walk with a new one.

    “Sidewalk” might as well have been a four-letter word. People despised them.

    But everyone sure seems to love these wide, multi-use paths that are all the rage in Crookston. Maybe it’s all the new, enthusiastic, energetic and motivated blood that has recently moved to Crookston and isn’t afraid to speak up in favor of what they think this community needs, but suddenly everyone wants to be active, wants to get out and about, and wants to be moving in the fresh air...on these cool paths.

    But what if one of these wide whoppers went in front of your house, or behind it, and greatly reduced the size of your yard in the process, not to mention your privacy?

    The Fairfax Avenue path only affects a couple of homeowners, but, wow, does it ever affect them. Most of their front yards are gone.

    And a couple of the houses in Sampson’s Addition that would get a multi-use, public path if the draft of the Downtown Master Plan was followed to the letter...the intrusion into private property and privacy is even greater.

    Sometimes we’re guilty of looking with derision on some of these people who cry NIMBY. (Not in my back yard!) But sometimes, they have a legitimate gripe.

    We may think these wide paths are wonderful and a great benefit to the community – and they probably are. But let us not pretend that we’d be overjoyed if one of these paths cut right through our yard.