Preserving nature favored by some Vermillion residents

Preserving nature favored by some Vermillion residents
Merlin and JoEllen Tipton, who live at 1545 Crestview, often see much more than a stand of trees at the end of their back yard, located at the top of the ravine that in recent months has been called Crawford Woods.

The couple is able to glance from their windows, or sit outdoors on their patio, and enjoy Mother Nature to the fullest.

"If that (Crawford Road) goes through, it will just break my heart to see all of that disappear down there," Merlin Tipton said. "We see so many animals in this backyard. Just a week ago, there were 12 turkeys back there, and there's a lot of deer, skunks, raccoons, and there are hundreds of rabbits that live down there."

Construction of the road, he fears, will mean removing the thick stand of trees in the ravine.

"There are thousands of birds that nest there every year," Mr. Tipton said. "All of that is going to be gone, and that's just going to break my heart if this happens."

The Tiptons and several of their neighbors who reside in the city's Southeast Ward are part of a collective movement attempting to halt the extension of Crawford Road south, down the bluff in a ravine that runs right behind the Tiptons' property.

They support turning the area into a nature preserve, and, instead of building a street, constructing a 10-foot wide bike path down the bluff in the ravine.

Last spring, an initiative was filed with the city that calls for voters to decide whether to continue the construction of Crawford Road south over a wooded bluff to provide a link with Burbank Road, which runs east and west on the city's southern border.

Citizens were compelled to circulate a petition to put this issue to a public vote after the Vermillion City Council decided last April to not extend Crawford Road and remove it from the city's comprehensive plan.

Aldermen also removed several alternative transportation options in April for the eastern section of the city.

The residents in the neighborhood that would be affected by connecting Crawford Road to Burbank Road – people like the Tiptons – filed initiative petitions in August to counter the initiative that has already been submitted by supporters of the road project.

That means Vermillion voters who go to the polls Tuesday, Nov. 7, will be asked to vote "yes" or "no" on Municipal Initiated Measure A, or Initiated Measure B.

Measure A favors development of Crawford Road. Measure B favors the creation of a nature preserve with a bike trail in the area.

If both measures receive a majority affirmative vote, the court system will become involved in ruling which initiative should take effect.

"The emotional side of the whole argument – we want to save the trees, we want to save the woods, we want to save the habitat – is very important, but also, we have a valid argument that the road maybe isn't necessary," said Mona Bye, one of the Tiptons' neighbors. "The money could be spent in a better way.

"If your goal is economic development," said Mel Ustad, who lives with his wife, Joanne, at 1525 Crestview, "and increasing buildings through housing and increasing the tax base, there are dozens of roads that you could build using that money, and they would all benefit the city."

He added that there would be room for development along such streets. They could be opened up for lots and new housing for the city.

The urgency of completing the road project seems strangely misplaced, said Tom Lavin, who lives near the Tiptons at 1544 Crestview Drive, noting that engineering reports that cite Crawford Road development as an important project for the city are at least 40 years old.

If the city wants to make it easier for its motorists to gain access to Highway 50, she added, it would make more sense to develop Fairview Street west of the city.

Lavin said the ravine that is now known as Crawford Woods is a much more valuable asset than one might think at first.

�There is a lot more down there than people realize at first, and I think people are just looking for a quiet place to walk,� he said. �This area gets used a lot by people for exercise.�

Joanne Ustad believes proponents of Crawford Woods can, just as effectively as supporters of Crawford Road, argue that safety issues are involved.

�I don�t think Burbank Road is very safe,� she said. �If anybody is out walking, it would be hard to see them, especially if they are traveling east in the morning and you have the glare from the sun coming up, and there are no shoulders on Burbank Road.�

She believes the new section of bike path, built to connect with the existing trail that runs along the Vermillion River, would make more sense.

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