Canton residents to ask council to reconsider trail project - KLTV.com-Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville, Texas | ETX News

Canton residents to ask council to reconsider trail project

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CANTON, TX (KLTV) -

The Canton City Council will have its regular meeting Tuesday night, and dozens, if not hundreds, of citizens will be there too, offering to chip in to pay for a running trail the city already budgeted for but now says they can't afford.

First-term Canton City Councilman Shawn Stewart calls Canton's Mill Creek Trail a "quality of life project."

At Stewart's urging last year, the Canton City Council voted 4 to 1 to pay $5,600 to have a design team draw up plans for a multi-phase trail around the lake. After the study was complete, Canton was one of nearly 80 cities to apply for a Texas Parks and Wildlife grant to build a 4-mile trail around part of Canton's Mill Creek Lake.

City Councilman Jerry Yarbrough was the lone vote against the project last year.

"I was against it then because I felt like this trail's going to be a money pit that Canton doesn't need right now," Yarbrough said. "We have streets that are in bad need of repair. We have water mains and sewer lines that's over 30 years past their life expectancy."

In May, the city was awarded an 80/20 matching grant of $179,440 from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to go toward Phase 1 of the trail, which is estimated to cost $225,000. The city would have to fund 20% of the project, or just over $44,000, but could pay for part with in-kind services. The city would need to pay $22,500 for the trail in cash, money Stewart says they put in the 2012-13 budget and haven't spent yet.

But two members who voted for the project weren't re-elected to the council in May, and the council voted 4 to 1 in its June meeting to reject the grant. Stewart acknowledges the project is running out of time.

"If the four people who voted to reject this grant at our last city council meeting stick to that vote, then we will reject this grant after it's been awarded to us and this project will probably die," Stewart said.

But not if Canton resident Meagan Deen has anything to do with it.

Deen has organized a Facebook page called "Friends of the Canton Greenbelt," to encourage the council members to change their minds about the project.

"I felt like the city council was trying to sweep a big issue under the rug and move on," she said. "The big concept is to have trails all through Canton and I'm afraid that without this grant, without this park, we won't achieve that."

The page currently has more than 350 likes, and group members have been asked to come to the council meeting Tuesday night to ask the council to reconsider accepting the grant - and to ask if community members can donate toward the city's share of the project so that the grant isn't rejected.

"I'm worried that we will be blacklisted when we apply for future grants and what that's ultimately going to do is prevent the city from being able to move forward on other parks projects," Stewart said.

"That is a concern, but I don't think it's the case," Yarbrough said. "I think once all the knowns are out that I think the state and the Parks and Wildlife (Department) could reasonably understand why we turned down the grant and why we rejected this particular project."

The Canton City Council meets Tuesday night at 6 p.m. at the Canton City Hall.

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