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Walking the line between nuisance and convenience

Walkways were meant to help residents reach parks or stores safely, but neighbors say some paths attract trespassers, trash

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Posted: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 12:00 am

Take a walk in some of Lodi’s 30-year-old neighborhoods and you’ll see something unusual: Seven walkways cut between homes, lined with trees, flowerbeds and other landscaping. Neighbors say the walkways are convenient — but sometimes they cause more trouble than they’re worth.

The walkways were planned into subdivisions built in the 1970s and 1980s, city engineer Charles Swimley said.

“They were built as a way to get to stores or parks, or to improve walkability,” he said.

They aren’t alleys, though, even if garbage might pile up in some of them. These are strictly pedestrian walkways with no cars allowed. City staff are responsible for keeping the sections clean and free of graffiti.

The Lodi City Council voted to close one walkway, which led children to and from Washington Elementary School, in May. The walkway cut from Daisy Avenue to Holly Drive and crossed the railroad tracks. Over time, though, it had become a nuisance, especially after the school boundaries were redrawn and students no longer had to cross the tracks each day.

There are no plans for the city to vacate any other walkways. Swimley said they do get calls to fix up the landscaping or a broken light, but none have the same number of problems as the Daisy Avenue walkway did.

Lodi Unified School District staff also reported distressed neighbors.

Planning analyst Vicki Brum said kids were hanging out at the Daisy Avenue site, staying until late at night and causing trouble. This week, neighboring property owners are reclaiming the zone and restoring the original property line.

Residents who live near the walkway leading to Lodi High School say they had to call repeatedly to get increased security before and after school. In response, gates, a turnstile and a sign listing the hours the gates were unlocked were added several years ago, said Martha Johnson.

She and her husband Bobbie Johnson have lived in a home next to the walkway since 1959.

“It’s made it very peaceful for the neighborhood,” she said, though some trespassing continues. “It’s just annoying, at night when you’re trying to sleep, to hear footsteps running back and forth and jumping over the fence.”

Ahmad Khan, who lives near the walkway leading to the athletic fields at Beckman Elementary School, also reported teenagers jumping on the fence next to his backyard. Scattered broken glass was in the flowerbeds flanking the cement, but there was no graffiti or other vandalism.

Debbie Freeman has seen different problems in her neighborhood’s walkway. She lives on Brandywine Drive, near a walkway leading to the back parking lot of the Goodwill store on Kettleman Lane.

She has seen drug use, loitering and trespassing. Sometimes, when there is a bank robbery or burglary at a store in the Goodwill shopping center, police cars block off her street to corral the suspect.

“There’s pros and cons to it, since we’re so close to the shops,” said Freeman. “But it’s not really the kind of activity you want near your house.”

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

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