Thursday, December 26 2013 @ 07:21 PM UTC
Contributed by: B' Spokes
How does a trail benefit a utility company?
Paved trails give utilities a free access road for their maintenance trucks.
Trail users act like a volunteer security patrol, discouraging illicit activity like vandalism just by their presence.
With laws and agreements shielding the utilities from any liability and costs for the trails, there is virtually no down side.
"In our 35 years of planning, designing and constructing trails, we have always found the utility companies around here to understand that the trail users constitute unpaid "eyes and ears" to deter vandalism. Further when we design trails we often facilitate their use by the utility companies for maintenance of their lines. With a good trail, restored or replacement bridges and the like, the companies realize their cooperation will save them money." Bob Thomas, Campbell Thomas & Co., Philadelphia PA
With trails providing mutual benefits to both the public and the utility companies, why do some utility companies embrace trails, while other utility companies with identical ROWs oppose them?
Simply put, the main obstacle to building trails along power lines is the attitude of the utility company.
If the utility company sees the public as friends and neighbors, and it wants its ROW to be a positive amenity for the surrounding community, it will find a way to allow trails to be built. It will take full advantage of its state's Recreational Use Statute. It will reach out to local governments looking for opportunities to build trails along the ROWs, and actively negotiate agreements that protect and benefit all sides. Trail inclusion becomes the default condition, instead of being the rare exception.
If the utility company sees the public as a threat, or it just doesn't care about the surrounding community, it will find an endless list of objections to building any trail. Opportunities will be squandered. Sadly, its ROWs will be as attractive as living next to a state prison, with nothing but No Trespassing signs to greet you.