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COG is Back: Garden City Greenbelt bike closure debate resurfaces

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After about a year of quiet, bike activists in Garden City are back--now armed with lawyers--in their attempt to get a 1.5-mile section of Greenbelt opened to cyclists.

In October 2008, Citizens for an Open Greenbelt took its case to the Idaho Land Board, hoping that body would force Garden City to allow bikes along the Greenbelt just west of Glenwood Street and north of the Boise River along the Riverside Village subdivision. It did not go their way, and COG went quiet for about a year.

But a grass-roots (read: Facebook) fundraising campaign recently netted the group $4,000, money that will potentially go toward filing fees, depositions and expert witnesses for a potential lawsuit.

"We met our goal of funds for legal action in six weeks," said COG founder Gary Segers.

Segers would not comment on legal strategy but said he is in contact with three attorneys who will work for free to help COG open the Greenbelt.

"We just do not believe that Garden City has the authority to ban bikes, based on all this public record," he said.

Segers has collected 30 years of documentation on that stretch of Greenbelt, arguing that it was intended as a public bicycle path all along and that Garden City's bike ban violates multiple agreements. But the big picture, and the motivation for many donors to the COG cause, is the creation of a continuous, connected green path for bikes, runners, pedestrians, dogs and other non-motorized uses on both sides of the Boise River.

"COG is in this for the long haul, fully dedicated to a valley-wide open greenbelt for bike riding enthusiasts and families as it was envisioned from the start," Segers wrote to supporters.

Garden City has maintained all along that the closure is legal, no big deal and that there are ways around it, including a sanctioned detour through neighborhood streets and a complete path on the south side of the river that may soon connect to Eagle Road.

"The city is operating within its regulatory authority in making people get off and walk," Garden City Mayor John Evans said.

Speaking of Greenbelt closures, construction on the Ray Neef MD Boise River Recreation Park has begun, forcing a daytime Greenbelt detour near Quinn's Pond at Pleasanton Avenue. Later this month, a section of the Greenbelt will close for construction all the way to Veterans Memorial Parkway.

The project includes a new bridge over the river at 36th Street, providing more north-south connections for commuters.

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