CRESTVIEW — School traffic on Stillwell Boulevard has sparked concern among area residents, including some who said they regularly can’t get out of their driveway.
Christopher Shimeld’s grandparents live on Valley Road, a street off Stillwell near Walker Elementary. According to Shimeld, traffic from the school on weekday mornings and afternoons is so bad that the driveways of many houses and multiple intersections are blocked for hours.
AN INCONVENIENCE AND A HAZARD
“There was also issues with cars parking in people’s yards,” Shimeld said. “The people got tired of that, that live right there in front of Walker, so [the city] put up concrete embankments to keep people out of the yards.”
In addition, signs were installed along the roadway, alerting drivers not to park in yards across from the school.
Shimeld said traffic is a hazard, because if an emergency vehicle would need to get through, they likely couldn’t. In addition, many cars try to pass on the opposite side of the road or on the shoulder, and that is dangerous with children walking to school.
Shimeld said he has met with Mayor David Cadle a few times about the issue.
“City boundary lines are confusing in the area of Walker School. The school is in the city of Crestview, but the opposite side is in the county,” Cadle said. “I spoke with the principal last year about the concerns I was hearing from residents in that area whose driveways were being blocked in the afternoon pick-up time. I have also suggested that the school resource officer patrol that area and leave driveways open.
“Many people have doctor appointments … and are having difficulty getting out of their homes. I have been informed that nothing has changed this school year.”
THE SEARCH FOR SOLUTIONS
As of this writing, the Crestview Police Department hasn’t responded to emails on the matter; however, an Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said they have been working with the school to attempt to find a solution.
“Yes, Walker does have a traffic issue. The school district is aware of the problems because this is not a new issue,” Sgt. Erick Denny, an officer with the youth services division, said. “The school has re-worked the traffic patterns several times in an attempt to ease the traffic flow on Stillwell. Myself, the [school resource officer], the principal and the assistant superintendent walked the school campus at the end of last year in an attempt to find a solution to the congestion.
“We have sent traffic units to monitor the situation, but there is not an easy solution unless the city/county builds a long turn lane into the school — the problem is there is a major drainage ditch that would be affected and they were told it would be very expensive.”
According to Denny, Matt Christmas, Walker’s resource officer, installed additional signs at the school telling parents not to drop students off in nearby neighborhoods.
“If we need to get a sign made to not block driveways, we can do that as well,” Denny said. “Writing tickets is not going to ease or reduce the traffic flow.”
Henry Kelley, communications director for Okaloosa County schools, said the problem is not on school property, therefore, it’s not within the school district’s jurisdiction.
In the meantime, Shimeld said the traffic is impeding the entire area and affecting the whole community.
“There are a million solutions that could fix this,” he said.