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Posted: April 24, 2014 Eau Claire City Council OKs plans to install deck, path to river

By Andrew Dowd

For original story click here:Leader-Telegram staff

Despite safety concerns of creating a gravel path to the Chippewa River near several taverns, the Eau Claire City Council approved a plan Tuesday for a scenic overlook.

Though Water Street merchants still have some details to discuss with city engineers, the council approved their plans to build a deck and trail to the shoreline near the intersection of Menomonie Street and Fifth Avenue.

"The public's going to benefit from this privately funded project," Councilman Dave Strobel said.

Councilwoman Catherine Emmanuelle led an unsuccessful effort to remove the path from the plan.

 "Public safety is something we put a high value on," she said.

 Councilman Eric Larsen, a former Eau Claire deputy police chief, opposed the path to the river because it's less than a block from several Water Street taverns.

 He and Emmanuelle echoed concerns of the city's police and fire chiefs who spoke Monday night about the potential for drownings related to alcohol consumption.

 Council President Kerry Kincaid said she found safety concerns raised by rescue workers and council members to be thought-provoking and troubling, she concluded that

 the overlook had more benefits than risks.

 "I believe that a designated access point would add safety," she said.

Councilman David Klinkhammer supported the trail and overlook as a way to enhance the city's use of the river. He discounted the idea of changing the plan because of worries over a few people's behavior.

"You can't legislate morality. You can't legislate stupidity," he said. "People are going to behave in a way that's inappropriate, whether the trail is in there or not."

Councilwoman Kathleen Mitchell and Councilman Bob Von Haden both voted against the project when it reached commissions they served on, but both said Tuesday they'd learned more about the plan, and it won their support.

"I have since then been convinced of its value," Mitchell said.

The council voted 7-3 to keep the trail and landing as a part of the Water Street Business Improvement District's plan.

Ultimately, the council voted 9-1 to approve the overlook plan, with only Councilman Larsen stating his objections to the trail was enough to oppose the entire project. 

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