As the City of Westfield expands its trails system, more residents are walking, running or cycling on the pedestrian trailways. But the city is also seeing in motorists illegally driving on trails, especially on the Midland Trace Trail.
“For the most part, accidental driving on the trail, it does happen, but it’s relatively rare,” Westfield Parks and Recreation Dept. Supt. Chris McConnell said. “Here, it’s more than likely done very intentionally because more than likely, people think it’s an easy way to navigate around that area.”
A portion of the Midland Trace Trail runs east to west, south of Park Street, a popular destination with several restaurants and congested traffic. McConnell believes drivers use the trail as a shortcut because there are no bollards preventing access to the trail. McConnell said drivers usually enter the trail off Park Way Circle near Esler’s Auto Repair.
“I think more often than not (vehicles are) going down to (the trail entry) on Mill Street, but I have seen them once or twice go up Park Way Circle and turn west on the Midland and head over to Poplar (Street),” he said.
McConnell said signage states motorized vehicles aren’t permitted on the trail. He said the parks department has discussed installing bollards, but because there are no fences adjacent to the trail entries, he expects drivers would continue to use the trail and damage the sod by driving off trail to avoid the bollards.
McConnell said there hasn’t been an effort to catch motorists driving on the trails.
“I’ve only seen half a dozen incidents of this occur, and it’s only been reported to me once or twice,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s a bigger issue than what it’s been told to me. Until it becomes a huge safety issue, the police department probably doesn’t have time to address it.”
Greek’s Pizzeria owner Curt Whitesell said he’s seen a dozen vehicles the past few years drive illegally on the Midland Trace Trail, which is directly south of his Park Street restaurant.
“We often joke about cars driving along the Midland Trail south of Park Street, but in reality, it seems to be a serious accident waiting to happen,” Whitesell said. “In my eyes, it should be a high priority and a really easy fix from a city’s perspective. With a goal of bringing even more new visitors to our community, the chances of this repeatedly happening are just going to increase.”
McConnell encourages motorists to be patient in congested areas and not drive on trails.
“We all realize Park Street is a very busy location, especially during high-traffic times,” he said. “People need to be patient and use the street instead of using our pedestrian amenities to navigate in that area. Our trails are a wonderful asset to the community, and they’re for alternative transportation. So, it’s for pedestrians and cyclists and walkers, and we want to keep them safe.”