07/14/11 — It's final: Park to get gates

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It's final: Park to get gates

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on July 14, 2011 1:46 PM

The path toward opening Herman Park's portion of Park Avenue has finally materialized, as the Recreation and Parks Advisory Commission created a final recommendation for the City Council on safety measures to keep children and pedestrians in the park safe.

The council decided to reinstall gates at the park's roundabout sometime bet-ween its July 5 council meeting and a mid-morning call from interim City Manager Tasha Logan to interim Parks and Recreation Director Sherry Archibald asking her to hold off on removing the bollards presently preventing traffic from passing through. Ms. Logan said the council wanted to have gates installed before reopening the street, which was illegally closed more than a year ago.

General Statute 160A-299 states that a public hearing must be held in advance of any street or alley closing.

Charged with aggregating gate designs and price estimates, as well as a schedule of times when the gates will be closed once installed, from the commission, Mrs. Archibald compiled a final plan for the street at Tuesday evening's commission meeting.

The commission asks that the gates, once installed, be closed weekends between April 1 and September 30, which coincides with the Kiwanis train's running schedule. The gates would be closed at 4 p.m. on Fridays and would be reopened at 7 a.m. on Mondays.

Different groups could request the street be opened or closed for events and the requests would be considered by the parks and recreation staff.

Mrs. Archibald also presented a possible design for the gates that would be in compliance with the historic district commission's parameters.

Council members were initially taken aback by the cost estimates for the gates, which were placed between $6,000 and $8,000. Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Allen asked if there was a less expensive option, similar to the gates that were taken down in January and replaced by bollards. The cost to remove those bollards has been estimated at about $700, including the cost to repair the road.

This most recent debacle concerning the closing of Park Avenue (a similar move by the city was voted down in 2002) began when the City Council asked then-interim Parks and Recreation Director Neil Bartlett to close the gates to the roundabout for a two-week trial basis in spring 2010, due, reportedly, to concerns about the safety of children in the park.

Further complaints from park visitors led then-Parks and Recreation Director Ruben Wall to remove the gates and install bollards, allowing for pedestrians and cyclists to pass through, in January 2011. Last fiscal year's street repaving projects led to the council reconsidering whether the street should remain closed, bringing about a public hearing in which seven individuals spoke against the closing, with one in support of the closure, on April 18. A 5-0 vote on May 2 denied the city's petition to close the street and began what has become a more than two-month-long process of determining how to open the road while implementing safety measures to make children safer.

The council approved July 2 the lowering of the speed limit through the park from 25 m.p.h. to 10 m.p.h. and Bartlett, the director of public works, said Wednesday morning that the new signs had already been posted.