LEE — Town officials are courting 13 home- and business owners key to completing the first leg of the nearly 7-mile Lee Bikeway.
The Lee Bike Path Committee plans to seek the owners' written permission for Foresight Land Services to survey and take soil samples for testing along the section that follows the Housatonic River.
The Pittsfield engineering firm has been hired to design the mostly off-road bike path that initially would stretch from the Stockbridge line on Route 102 heading east on the highway before turning left behind the Big Y supermarket. From there, Phase 1 of the recreational trail would run parallel of the river to the rear of Lee Bank on West Park Street.
The rest of the bike path would continue north, primarily along the river, and end on Mill Street bordering Lenox Dale.
So far, 10 of the 13 property owners are supportive of the project, according to Lee Bike Path Committee Chairman John Toole.
"One company is out of town and not easy to connect with; one landowner is not very positive that we need to work on and one is not returning phone calls," he told the Board of Selectmen.
Board Chairwoman Patricia Carlino asked for and received assurances from Toole of minimal intrusion to landowners.
"There will be some disturbances of property, but they will be repaired," she said.
For more than seven years, local bikeway advocates have been planning and seeking support for the entire 6.7-mile recreational trail. The town has $317,000 in federal and state funding to pay for the bike path design, which will include public input, town officials have said.
Eventually, the town will seek permanent easements for the bikeway from those private landowners affected by the project.
Once property owner permission is secured and state transportation officials approve the final design, $3.6 million in state and federal money has been earmarked for construction no sooner than fiscal 2017.
If built, the Lee Bikeway would become part of the long-envisioned Berkshire Bike Path stretching from the state lines of Vermont to Connecticut. The Berkshire Bike Path Council and Berkshire Regional Planning Commission have been working with several other communities to create their own bike paths.
Williamstown, North Adams, Pittsfield, Great Barrington and Stockbridge have had proposed routes in various phases of development, according Berkshire Bike Path proponents.
Toole urged patience from the board and residents regarding ultimate completion of the Lee portion.
"It's like the mouse that ate the elephant — one bite at a time," he said.
Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.