By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Wood County Park District Board members aren’t exactly charged up about a request from American Electric Power.
The electric company has approached the park district about getting an easement for a new line along the Slippery Elm Trail near North Baltimore. The request covers the strip of land on the west side of the trail from Quarry Road to Broadway Street, where the trail starts in North Baltimore.
Wood County Park District Director Neil Munger listed several concerns about giving an easement for the power lines.
First, it would mean the loss of most if not all the vegetation and trees on the west side of the trail. Second, Munger has concerns about poles being installed right next to the trail. And third, the southernmost section of the Slippery Elm Trail would likely need to be closed to users during construction.
Park board chairman Denny Parish said the district does not have to approve the request from American Electric Power. It is unknown if AEP can use eminent domain for the project.
The board suspected that AEP is asking the park district for an easement because it would be easier than dealing with several different landowners along different routes.
Munger said the high transmission lines will be on 80-foot poles, which are about twice the height of standard poles for electric lines.
Board member John Calderonello pointed out that the lack of a vegetation wind barrier will make that portion of the trail much more difficult and unpleasant for bicyclists and walkers.
And board member Christine Seiler noted that the buzzing from the overhead electric lines will take away the peaceful feel of the trail.
Seiler asked if there would be any benefit to the park district for granting the easement. Munger said there would be none, other than a payment to the park district for the easement. The amount of that payment is unknown.
A representative of American Electric Power is scheduled to attend the park district board meeting in January, to make a pitch for the easement along the Slippery Elm Trail.
Seiler, whose last meeting with the park district board is in December, expressed regret that she wouldn’t be present to vote on the request.
“Can we vote on it before I leave – please,” she said with a grin.