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Cyclists want to connect parks 

[UPDATED AND REVISED 10/27/17] The rugged trails of Tryon Park and Irondequoit Bay Park West make them popular with hikers, trail runners, and mountain bikers – the latter in particular, since these are the only parks in Monroe County's system where off-road cycling is allowed.

The two parks are close together, too, which means cyclists and runners often go back and forth between them. But they lack any sort of formal connection, leaving users to improvise their route. And that frequently means crossing the busy, four-lane section of Empire Boulevard along Tryon. It's not the safest scenario, says Genesee Regional Off-Road Cyclists (GROC) President Jeff Wright.

"We want to try and avoid this situation and get people off Empire Boulevard," Wright says.

GROC officials have a proposal to fix the problem, and they're seeking the county's approval to move ahead with it. The group wants to extend an existing trail in Tryon's north end to Irondequoit Boulevard, a neighborhood street with a sidewalk that veers out to Empire.

The link would make it simpler for park users to get to the traffic signal at Empire and North Winton, a point where they could safely cross. They could then use Empire's sidewalks to get to either of the parks.

Neighbors, however, object to the plan, which they view as an intrusion into their neighborhood. The trail would pass directly behind one house and has raised privacy and security concerns among the residents, says Marilynne Lipshutz, one of 30 neighbors who signed a petition against the proposal. It could open the neighborhood to more traffic and funneling cyclists onto a public sidewalk would create unsafe conditions for pedestrians, she says.

Some neighbors also have concerns about the environmental impact of cycling in the parks, which are adjacent to sensitive, erosion-prone areas of Irondequoit Bay. But the county rejected similar concerns from critics when it decided to open the parks to off-road cycling in 2009.

The Tryon park neighbors are asking for a compromise that wouldn’t affect the area’s character, Lipshutz says.

“Is it necessary to connect these two parks by going through residences?” Lipshutz says.

GROC has presented its plan to the county's Parks Advisory Committee. After a month-long comment period, the committee will make a recommendation to county parks director Larry Staub, who will ultimately decide whether to approve the project, says county spokesperson Brett Walsh. For now, the county is taking no position on the plan, Walsh says.

Wright says GROC will pay for the costs to create the trail and will do the work; its members already volunteer hundreds of hours each year maintaining trails in the two parks.

This article has been updated to add the position of Tryon and Irondequoit Bay Park West neighbors.

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