Is the hiking/biking trail a luxury or a necessity?

In the abstract, the Mosquito Fleet walking/biking trail currently being discussed by the Port Orchard City Council sounds like a wonderful thing for a city to have.

In the real world, however, the project begs a couple of questions.

First, is there something more practical to spend the money on, and second, will the project ever actually be built?

Representatives from the Port Orchard engineering firm of N.L. Olson & Associates last week unveiled the results of a study it had conducted on the feasibility of constructing a roughly 1.5-mile-long, 10-foot-wide asphalt trail from Waterfront Park to the Annapolis ferry dock.

The study itself was funded through federal and state grants administered in coordination with the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council.

The project carries a pricetag of around $3 million, not including right-of-way acquisition, but federal stimulus money could pay for virtually all of the construction itself.

According to the city’s development director, the city already owns most of the land needed for the trail, and the remainder could be obtained through a variety of means that wouldn’t cost the city as much as one might think.

That all sounds very nice. And yet, any way you slice it, the city is still going to have to write a fairly substantial check at some point to make this project happen — which brings us right back to Question 1 about whether there might be something better to spend the money on.

By coincidence, for example, during the same work-study session at which the council members were shown plans for the trail, they were also told that local sewer rates would almost certainly have to be raised in the near future to replace aging pipes.

And you can bet your paycheck that isn’t the only piece of infrastructure that needs attention, either.

Again, no one is suggesting the trail isn’t a really nifty idea.

We’re just issuing a subtle reminder that some things are luxuries and others are necessities. And before we get too excited about buying one, it's always a good idea to make sure we can afford the other.

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