Thumbs down: Traffic calming irks church

Bob Archer would probably admit to having some uncharitable thoughts. As a board member at Cherry Avenue Christian Church, he's spent the last six weeks trying to figure out why the city installed a traffic-calming peninsula and then left it to sprout weeds in front of a church that's getting gussied up for its 50th anniversary.

"Nobody told me who put it there and why they put it there," fumes a frustrated Archer. "It's dumb. I'm fed up about it."

The church sits on the corner of Cherry and Cleveland avenues, and after the corner was extended, drivers started using the church parking lot as a shortcut.

"Cars just came flying through here," says Archer. And during vacation Bible school, there was concern that children would get hit, especially after a nearby resident plowed through cones the church had put out to slow traffic in the parking lot.

Now the church has put up a chain and a sign forbidding through traffic. "We have to unlock the chain when we want to use our lot," says Archer.

After weeks of calls from Archer, the city finally removed the weeds that had taken over the new extended corner, which also gobbled up street parking used by the church. Mulch went down August 29.

Archer still isn't sure who's supposed to maintain the new patch of dirt. "We're not going to take care of it because we didn't want it there in the first place," Archer says.

The intersection modification was a proffer from the developer of the new Cherry Hill subdivision, and responsibility for its maintenance is still to be determined, says Angela Tucker, city development services manager. If the neighborhood association decides not landscape it, it will stay a mulch-covered plot, or parks and recreation will plant something low maintenance.

"We will try to do a better job communicating in the future," says Tucker. And she says the city will keep an eye on that corner because "We don't want it to be an eyesore."

The Fry's Spring Neighborhood Association has long requested calming to slow traffic coming down Cleveland Avenue from Jefferson Park, according to resident Vance High, who ran for City Council in 2004.

"We put three proposals before the city," says High. "The city ignored them. We weren't told that would be the plan and were surprised we weren't in the loop."

High calls the extended curb the "Big Thumb," and he's concerned about increased traffic from the new Cherry Hill subdivision.

High sees advantages and disadvantages to the Big Thumb. It has slowed traffic coming down from JPA, but the extension requires an additional turn to get onto Cherry, and cars at the new corner can back up. "If there's any traffic, I can't turn to get to my house," says High, who admits to (and apologizes for) cutting through the church parking lot.

The Big Thumb has narrowed the street, making it harder for large vehicles to turn off Cherry onto Cleveland. "I wouldn't want to do it in a Cadillac," says High. "A fire truck would go over the curb."

High, too, is struggling with the "conundrum" of who's responsible for landscaping the dirt in front of Cherry Avenue Christian Church. Initially, he offered to plant some bulbs. "We were told it was the responsibility of the neighborhood association," he says. "Then they didn't choose the designs we had, and then the Big Thumb got put in. I'm not sure who's responsible."

Meanwhile, the Reverend Harve Ayers has people coming for Cherry Avenue Christian Church's anniversary celebration weekend October 7-9, and he's worried about first impressions.

"We're inviting people back who haven't been here for years," says Ayers. "And that's the first thing you see when you come."

Cherry Avenue Christian Church board member Bob Archer had to put up a chain to keep cars from cutting through the church parking lot to avoid the traffic calming "Big Thumb."