Neighbors: Stop Edward Street in its tracks at Vets Park
Some beach area residents want to close the section of Edward Street that runs through Veterans Park, saying the road is frequently used as a cut-through and that traffic creates "a dangerous environment" for children and adults in the park.
"We would like to shut off automobile traffic in Veterans Park. The road goes through the middle of the park," Chad Czapla of Edward Street told the town's Parks and Recreation Commission last week. "This is a very dangerous situation."
More than 100 beach area residents and park-goers have signed petitions in support of closing Edward Street from the park's bocce courts to the tennis courts by erecting police barricades at those locations. Czapla, in a letter to the town's Police Commission, said the idea has merit because Edward Street lacks sidewalks, crosswalks, streetlights, stop signs, and median and shoulder lines. It also is within 10 yards of picnic tables, a playground for toddlers, bocce courts and a softball field, all of which are unfenced, he wrote.
Czapla said Edward Street, which links Reef Road to Fairfield Beach Road, is a cut-through for motorists going to the dump and that speed bumps aren't a solution because the town's Department of Public Works wouldn't be able to plow snow from the street. If the street is closed between the tennis and bocce courts, existing parking lots on either side of Veterans Park could be preserved and the closed-off section could be used for street hockey, Czapla said. He said the barricades could be removed before a significant storm or for events such as the town's annual collection of hazardous materials.
"We're trying to be really proactive about this," Czapla told the Parks and Recreation Commission. "We're prepared for a long process ... I imagine this is the first couple of steps of a marathon."
Dante Gallucci, chairman of the parks and rec panel, said he didn't have a problem with Czapla's request, though he added that the Police Commission has sole jurisdiction over whether part of Edward Street is closed. "If they want to give us a little more area to have for recreation, we'd never turn that down," Gallucci said.
Commission member Robert Seirup said he would rather not have the road through the park, and commission member Ellery Plotkin agreed that it is unusual to have a road going through a park. "I'm kind of glad you brought this forward," Plotkin said to Czapla.
Commission member Patti Dyer questioned whether closing a section of the street would be problematic for emergency responders.
Gallucci said the Police Commission is conducting a traffic study on Edward Street, and Czapla said safety related to emergency response times "is obviously most important for the whole community."
Fire Chief Richard Felner said Thursday that he does not have a problem with Czapla's request and does not feel that closing that section of Edward Street would create a delay in firefighters' response to emergency calls. "It might not be a bad idea because all these children are playing in the park on the swings and the baseball [field.] It might not be a bad idea because people do use it as a short-cut," he said. "As the fire chief, I don't see really any delay. We just take an alternate street which is also close by."
Deputy Police Chief Christopher Lyddy said police have been working with the DPW on alternative solutions, one of which involves "chicanes," or artificial features on the street that would create additional turns so motorists had to slow down. "We do have some concerns about closing the road and emergency vehicle access to secondary streets on the other side of the park, but, at the same time, we think there are things we can bring forward to improve safety in the area," he said. "We're still trying to put together some ideas, but I think we've got some good ones that will make everyone happy."
Czapla mentioned two alternatives in his letter to the Police Commission. One called for closing a section of Edward Street along with paving town land on Quincy Street, between Fox Street and Jarvis Court, to create a through street. The other proposal called for only eliminating traffic through Veterans Park on weekdays after 4 p.m. and all day on weekends when the risk of a car-vs.-pedestrian accident is highest.