• Halloween hot spot traffic directed one way
By Carey Restino
Next week, the upper neighborhoods of Homer will see a stampede of some 500 goblins, ghosts and pink, sparkly-wanded princess fairies. But this year, the spooks, and their accompanying parent-driven chariots, will be asked to proceed in an orderly fashion in one direction only.
The one-way traffic pattern, to be instituted from 5 to 8 p.m. on Oct. 31, will impact Mountain View Drive and Bayview Avenue, two streets that have historically been incredibly popular with the Halloween crowds of the southern Kenai Peninsula.
Traffic will be asked to flow east on Mountain View from Main Street and west on Bayview from Kachemak Way. The lane closed to cars will be the pedestrian lane, with the exception of residential traffic heading home. Volunteers will be on hand to help direct traffic.
Adele Person Groning, who lives in the area and helped organize the traffic pattern, said she and several neighbors began talking about what to do to make the Halloween hot spot safer. In past years, a maylay of tiny goblins and ghouls, followed by their parents in vehicles, have darted from house to house. With no sidewalks and no place for cars to park, coupled with the traditional Halloween snow and sleet, many feared an accident was inevitable.
Groning said her conversations with neighbors revealed that many in the area were concerned.
ìA lot of people said this has been long overdue,î Groning said, adding that she heard reports of people who had been hit by cars, but not injured enough to report it. While the neighborhood wasnít unanimously in favor of the idea, the majority of residents supported it. ìIt seems to have a lot of momentum, and not only with residents.î
Groning said the situation has been dicey for years. Mountain View Drive and Bayview Avenue have historically been so popular with trick-or-treaters, perhaps harkening back to the days when the area was one of the more densely populated neighborhoods in town. Now, children flock to the streets from as far away as Ninilchik and the Russian villages. Some residents report spending more than $500 on candy just to keep from running out. Others choose to avoid the throngs of costumed kids by turning out their lights, which Groning encouraged people to respect rather than ringing the door bells in hopes of a hand-out. While the spontaneous party is welcomed by some, who throw themselves into the holiday with elaborate decorations and treats, others fine it overwhelming. Just getting home on Halloween night can be close to impossible.
Add to that the challenges community-wide of Halloween being a night of revelry that puts police on heightened alert, and you have a significant challenge.
Groning said she hopes this traffic strategy will help reduce the chaos a bit and she plans to follow up with neighbors afterward to see what the response is.
ìIím really excited about exploring this solution,î Groning said.
Groning, who has been involved with traffic and pedestrian improvements to Old Town homer through her position on the Homer arts committee as well as her work at the Bunnel Arts Center, said she hopes the change in traffic on Halloween will help spark a larger conversation about a sharing roads with pedestrians and cyclists throughout the community. Most of Homerís streets do not have sidewalks, and an increasing number of people are walking or cycling in town, while not all drivers have grown accustomed to sharing the road.
ìI feel its unsafe to let my 8-year-old daughter go three houses down the street without watching her,î Groning said, noting that while some traffic travels slowly on the residential streets, other drivers can be seen cruising by at 45 miles per hour. Crosswalks have been installed around town, but drivers have yet to consistently recognize that pedestrians have the right-of-way. And the trails found in Homer donít connect to provide access to the community without some travel on roads.
ìI think this does tie into larger questions about recalibrating the balance between motorists and pedestrians and bicyclists,î she said. ìSharing the road is a really great way to capture that spirit and respect the choices of those who chose to use other modes of transportation.î
For now, however, Groning said the focus is on making Halloween night as safe as possible for those coming to the Mountain View Drive and Bayview Avenue community. Police will be on hand conducting their regular patrols, and volunteers in safety vests will help direct traffic. Those who can are encouraged to leave their cars at home or park further away and walk to the area, but those who choose to drive their children through the neighborhood will be directed through the area.
ìI admire everybody for being willing to try something new,î Groning said.
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