08/14/11 — City set to open Park Avenue ... soon?

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City set to open Park Avenue ... soon?

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on August 14, 2011 1:50 AM

The road to a resolution of the months-long Park Avenue issue has cleared.

Figuratively, at least.

Parks Superintendent John Albert said Thursday morning the bollards that were installed in January to keep the road closed while allowing for pedestrian and bicycle traffic had been removed, but added that the road still was closed to vehicular traffic. The road will remain closed until the gates, which are expected to be installed Aug. 19, are up.

"As far as an opening date for the road -- I could not say," Albert said. "The road is closed until I get the OK from (City Council), the city manager or whoever makes that call."

Concrete is being removed from the area before it is repacked in preparation for the street's repaving from Herman to Jackson streets. The street's inclusion on a street repairs list is what brought Park Avenue's closure into the forefront.

The street was mysteriously closed more than a year ago, reportedly for a two-week trial period at the encouragement of the City Council and then-interim Parks and Recreation Director Neil Bartlett. When the new director of the department, Ruben Wall, arrived in Goldsboro, the gates that allow traffic into the roundabout in the middle of the park were closed, and remained so until the beginning of this year when he had bollards installed to replace the gates. Wall cited complaints from pedestrians and bikers about not having easy access to the roundabout.

When the issue of street repairs was raised in a council meeting, Mayor Pro tem Chuck Allen pointed out the street's illegal closure and that a public hearing had to be held before the road could be permanently closed. He asked that a hearing be held before the repairs to the road were made, since there was no point in repaving a road closed off to vehicular traffic.

A 5-0 vote not to close the street followed an April 18 public hearing in which seven individuals spoke against the closing, but it took until last week before the labor to open up the road began.

A recommendation by the Planning Commission to seek out safety measures that could be implemented along the stretch of road led to the council asking the Recreation and Parks Advisory Commission for suggestions, which included crosswalks and speed bumps, which were presented at the May 16 meeting. The council tweaked those suggestions, adding one that entailed an entire entrance to the roundabout being closed to turn the thoroughfare into a cul-de-sac, leading the commission to reconsider its suggestions, and to interim Parks and Recreation Director Sherry Archibald presenting a cost estimate for that option at the July 5 meeting, at which point Mrs. Archibald requested a final decision on the park.

The council seemed to favor an option that would re-install gates similar to what had existed at the park before the installation of bollards at the beginning of this year, although the gates would need to be fashioned to keep with the Victorian decor of the park, at a cost of between $6,000 and $8,000 for the gates.

The council also approved, at its July 5 meeting, the lowering of the speed limit through the park from 25 mph. to 10 mph.

Mrs. Archibald sought to remove the bollards the following day, but stopped when interim City Manager Tasha Logan called mid-morning to inform her that the council wanted the gate installation and the removal of the bollards to happen simultaneously.

The RPAC met to discuss when the gates should be closed during its July meeting and determined the roundabout should be closed weekends between April 1 and Sept. 30, which coincides with the Kiwanis train's running schedule and is roughly the same amount of time that it took for the council to settle the debate. The gates will close at 4 p.m. on Fridays and will 7 a.m. on Mondays.