The proposed restoration of Lillian Dickson Park brought out several groups of area residents Monday night, who came out to the City Council work session to voice their concerns about the safety of children playing in the park.
The main concern of those that were in attendance was traffic near the park, which is located on Falconer Street between Bowen and Sturges streets.
Cathy Carlson, an ER nurse and first responder who lives with her family near the park, told the council that since she moved to the area, traffic has been an issue.
Wilson Cooper addresses the City Council on Monday about concerns regarding traffic safety near Lillian Dickson Park.
P-J photo by Ryan Atkins
"As we're getting closer to the Lillian Dickson Park renovation, the concern for traffic safety is an issue that has come up more and more," Carlson said. "We want to provide safety and crosswalks for the children. There are quite a few multi-family homes on the street, so there are quite a few children. Now we'll have this playground that will be attracting even more children. We're just concerned about their safety."
Because of her jobs, Carlson has seen firsthand what can happen at the scene of a motor vehicle accident, saying that it can be a traumatic experience not only for the children or the victim, but also the driver or drivers that are involved.
"We just want to make sure that we've covered all of our bases to prevent any more accidents," Carlson said.
Wilson Cooper, another area resident who participates in the neighborhood watch group near Lillian Dickson Park, was at Monday's meeting to inquire about the possibility of installing a four-way stop at the intersection of Falconer and Winsor streets as well as a crosswalk at the intersection of Falconer and Sturges streets.
"I think (the neighborhood watch) should go beyond just suspicious activity," Cooper said. "It's our job as adults and concerned citizens to make sure that the children are safe."
When proposing the possible safety upgrades to the area, Cooper said he focused on three main points: safety, community and the cost to the city.
"Like I've expressed to many of the community members, if it's a matter of cost, just give me the OK and I will go out and paint a crosswalk myself," said Cooper. "I have a daughter who is 6 years old. I want her to be able to have fun at the park."
According to Stephen Szwejbka, I-Ward 1, the first step for the City Council now that these suggestions have been proposed will be to refer the requests to the traffic division of the Department of Public Works, which will then take a look at the intersections in question. A New York state law currently says that a four-way stop can't be used as a measure to slow down traffic, however if there is a safety issue, the intersection may warrant the new signage.
Recently, the Jamestown Police Department has deployed speed trailers in the area to gather data regarding traffic which will be used in the study.
"One thing we can do, we can retrieve all of the data from the speed trailer so we can get hard numbers," said Harry Snellings, police chief. "We did that up on Lakeview Avenue. We had some numbers that seemed like they were exaggerations, but the reality of it was there were people on that road actually going 50 mph. (Data collection) was the intent of putting it out again, so we'll retrieve all of that data."
A crime analyst for the Jamestown Police Department pulled up all of the police reports for the area on Falconer Street between Winsor and Thayer streets, finding 38 total incidents in that area over the last four years. According to Snellings, the intersection at Winsor and Falconer streets shows up in those reports fairly frequently, due in part to the poor visibility at that intersection.
"I've said it over and over - we rely on people to be responsible drivers," said Snellings. "We'll look at the suggestions, though, look at the numbers, and see what we can do."
Following an accident in 2009 in the area of the park, a study was done to determine if more safety measures were needed. Some area signage was changed and there were more patrol cars in the area.
"I trust that the DPW traffic division and the Jamestown Police Department will make the right decisions," said Szwejbka. "These were valid concerns that were brought to us by citizens."
Following the public comments at the City Council meeting, it was announced that the city recently received a $12,610 contribution to put toward the park courtesy of the Chautauqua County Health Network which is receiving funds from the New York State Department of Health. The funds will be used to initiate recreation projects and healthy lifestyle practice projects throughout Chautauqua County.
"They have become a very important and indispensable player in putting together the funding for the Lillian Dickson playground upgrade," said Mayor Sam Teresi. "Our staff has been hard at work doing landscaping, fencing and other improvements to the park. There's about a $30,000 goal to acquire the playground equipment for the park. This (donation) is a very generous and huge step in moving forward with the playground component of the upgrade that is building on what the parks department is already working on implementing at the park."
A resolution will be brought to the City Council next week to formalize the acceptance of the donation. The Chautauqua Region Community Foundation also has an opportunity available for private donations to be made to the park fund, which will eventually be turned over to the city once the next phase of construction begins.
"The park is really coming along nicely and it is going to draw in more children to the area," said Szwejbka. "It is imperative that safety is the No. 1 priority at this point."