By Steve Hubrecht
The Eileen Madson Primary School Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) gave a presentation at the most recent Invermere council meeting to ask the district to take measures to address safety concerns around traffic flow and children walking to and from school on the eastern side of the school.
PAC presenters told council members at the Tuesday, November 25th council meeting that concerns stem from parking congestion on 20th Street and in the 14th Avenue parking area near the school, and asked for an explicitly designated walkway on 20th Street and a better defined walkway along the edges of the 14th Avenue parking lot.
Its a safety issue, said presenter Nadine Hale, adding that the problems have become more pronounced in recent years as enrollment at Eileen Madson Primary (EMP) has surged from 180 students to 220 students in the past four years, and now that the school currently has almost 70 kindergarden students.
In their presentation, PAC members pointed out that the narrow nature of 20th Street leaves kids who walk along it either crossing private lawns or weaving between parked cars. They also told council that in the 14th Avenue parking lot, the cement blocks marking parking spots are too close to the fence, there are no cement blocks at the south end of the lot, and cars often parallel park along the east side of 14th Avenue, all of which results in kids walking amid parked cars and potentially into the path of reversing vehicles.
Mrs. Hale and fellow PAC members made three recommendations: establishing a walking/cycling path on the north side of 20th Street; moving the existing cement blocks on the west side of the 14th Avenue parking area further from the fence, to create a wider, safer walking space for kids; and placing new cement blocks on the south and north side of the parking lot to make car-free paths for kids in those spots. The PAC also suggested putting no parking signs on the east side of the 14th Avenue parking lot where cars tend to parallel park, but said that doing so would eliminate parking spots and would require further discussion between the PAC, the District of Invermere, and the school district.
This issue goes back to when bus service in town ceased in September 1999, said Invermere chief administrative officer Chris Prosser. He said it might be best to put a totally segregated pathway on north side of 20th Street, right against the property line.
Invermere mayor Gerry Taft said the district might need time to look at long-term solutions, allowing staff time to walk the ground and determine the best options.
Mrs. Hale asked if some short-term measure could be taken immediately, such as erecting some no parking signs on 20th Street. Several councillors said they supported the idea. Mr. Prosser said unfortunately there would be a few days delay since all the districts no parking signs are currently in use (many actually at the front side of EMP), but that something would be done soon.
Council then unanimously agreed to pass a motion for no parking signs to be put on the north side of 20th Street as soon as possible, that a motion to put new concrete barriers at the south and north end of the 14th Avenue parking lot be brought to the first meeting of the incoming council, and that the district continue discussing longer-term solutions for the issue in the future.