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Residents sue city over Lone Pine Bike Park

Neighborhood group wants to stop work on 16-acre green space

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A southeast Springfield bike park is the focus of a lawsuit filed against the city by a neighborhood group seeking to stop renovation plans for the green space.

The lawsuit filed March 25 by 10 city residents alleges property owners near the 16.4-acre green space will be forced to pay for improvements they oppose at Lone Pine Bike Park, located in a wooded area between the Galloway Creek Greenway and South Lone Pine Avenue. While the park is open, construction work has been on pause since last summer. The plaintiffs are listed as Art Farris, Tim Reese, Cal Wise, David Lewis, Edwin “Cookie” Rice, Patty Melton, William Wear, Susie Henry, Chip McGeehan and Dale E. Williams. They are represented by attorneys Charles Cowherd and Benjamin Shantz with Spencer Fane LLP. 

The plaintiffs allege they will be harmed by increased and illegal parking in their neighborhood, future developments in the green space, increased water runoff and inadequate stormwater drainage, and safety concerns from more bicyclist traffic on the road surrounding the green space.

The property in question, located north of Battlefield Road and Lone Pine, has been set aside from development since 2003, according to court documents. Residents within the Lone Pine Greenspace Neighborhood Improvement District have paid for the green space maintenance for the past 19 years though their property taxes. It was determined in 2003 those 577 single-family homeowners in the NID would pay an additional real property tax of $80 per year for a period of 20 years to finance the acquisition and maintenance of the green space at a principal amount of $675,000, according to court documents.

Park origin
While the property sat undisturbed for 16 years, teenage mountain bikers from the Brentwood and Southern Hills neighborhoods took it upon themselves to start building Lone Pine Bike Park two years ago without the city’s permission, according to Ozark Greenways Inc. officials.

After being approached by city officials, the nonprofit joined the effort and received a $255,000 grant from Springfield-based Hatch Foundation to fund bike park upgrades, new natural-surface trails and ecological enhancements for stormwater and water quality improvements, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting. 

Tim Rosenbury, Springfield’s director of quality of place initiatives, told SBJ in July 2021 there were several ways the city could have responded, including chasing the teens off the property and closing the trail.

“The last thing that I wanted to see the city do was to unleash all the power and force that a city can have on its own citizens, which was this enterprising group of middle schoolers and freshmen and sophomores in high school,” he said last year. “I admired their initiative and their interest in making their neighborhood a more interesting place for them to live. You don’t want to punish that kind of zeal. Instead, you offer some guidance.”

However, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit believe the city’s reaction was in error.

“Rather than inform the minors that they were not authorized to construct makeshift bicycle tracks in the green space and to restore the natural condition of the green space, the city began developing plans to create a permanent bike park in the green space,” the lawsuit reads. 

The city plans include an intricate series of bike tracks with a hub, ramps and jumps, according to a news release from Spencer Fane. 

“We were shocked when the city announced its plans without ever asking the people who are paying for the land,” said Farris, one of the plaintiffs, in the release.

On Jan. 13, the Springfield Planning and Zoning Commission approved a request from the Springfield-Greene County Park Board to allow trail construction on the property, changing the land’s use designation to public open space and trails. According to the lawsuit, the action violated city laws.

On pause
While Ozark Greenways Executive Director Mary Kromrey declined to comment on the lawsuit, she said work at the park has remained paused since July 2021 to gather more feedback from the community.

Kromrey gave an update on the project at a Feb. 11 Park Board meeting. According to meeting minutes, officials reviewed a site plan acknowledging substantial modifications to the trail footprint were made after obtaining input from concerned residents who live in the neighborhood near the trail. However, it was noted a full consensus with the group had not been reached. 

The plaintiffs are suing the city to stop the park from being built any further, claiming it does not conform to the NID agreement originated in 2003. According to the lawsuit, the city agreed when the NID was formed that the acreage would only be used for “green space or green space-like purposes” and was classified as “public open space.”

“My clients do not object to a bike park in southeast Springfield, but they do object to the city putting it on land specifically purchased by taxpayers for the express purpose of preserving its natural character,” Cowherd said in the release. “They simply want the city to honor its promise.”

City Attorney Rhonda Lewsader said the city has no comment on the pending litigation.

In an email further explaining his clients’ position, Cowherd said the plaintiffs believe the green space has value to the city as it is.

“It serves as a buffer between the greenways trail and the residents along Lone Pine, it provides a drainage area for runoff, and it is available for uses that do not change its natural characteristics,” he said.

An electronic filing of the lawsuit was first shared on resident Linda Simkins’ community watchdog Facebook group.

The case has been assigned to Greene County Circuit Judge Michael Cordonnier. No court hearings for the case were scheduled as of April 6 in the Case.net online management system. Cowherd said no financial damages are included in the injunction sought by the plaintiffs.

“It seeks a declaration that the city’s bike park plan is not allowed, and it seeks to enjoin the city from moving forward with that plan,” he said.

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