By Sue Botos
The decision by Rocky River Public Library’s board of trustees to install a fence between the library and the neighboring middle school has opened a floodgate of protest from several parents urging like-minded residents to attend the Sept. 25 board meeting and express their concern.
According to parent Kathleen Haley, a gate placed in the fence, which library officials say will eventually be locked at the beginning and end of the school day for safety reasons, sends an unwelcome message to children.
“Now the children will have to walk all the way around the fence to get to the library, and they’ll have to cross a more dangerous intersection,” she said, referring to the library’s Riverview Avenue drive.
Library Director Nick Cronin told West Life in June that the wrought iron fence, which extends along the western end of the library’s staff parking area, was the latest attempt to discourage parents from using the library lot as a student drop-off and pickup spot. He added that the gate, which spans a walkway connecting the middle school and library lots, will be open during most of the day except for about an hour before and after school, and when the library is closed.
Due to the Hampton Road sewer work in front of the library’s main entrance, Cronin said that the gate has not yet been locked. “We’ll revisit that when the sewer project is done,” he stated.
Cronin said that over the years, various attempts to steer drivers away from the area, which is also a fire lane, including signs and traffic cones, have been ignored. A police presence was a temporary fix until the officers left and the parking resumed.
While stopping in the fire lane is being discouraged, Cronin said parents are welcome to park in marked spaces.
Haley stated that she and several parents recently met with Cronin, and board members Audra Bednarski and Bill Henson, who reiterated their concern about pedestrians crossing the parking lot, and traffic tie-ups. Cronin had stated earlier that last year a child and a library employee were almost hit by vehicles backing out of the area.
However, Haley and the parent group feels that the lot is no more dangerous than any other parking area. A statement, which was unanimously supported at last week’s PTA Council meeting, said, “There has never been an accident or injury in the library parking lot during school pick up or drop off times. Near misses occur like any parking lot. This is an important access point for parents and students. Erecting a gate to close off access will make the beginning and end of school more dangerous. It will send a strong message to our children that they are not welcomed after school.”
“They should engage the children rather than lock them out,” Haley stated. She acknowledged that there is congestion before and after school as vehicles wind through the library lot, but she added that this lasts for only about 15 to 20 minutes. She said that she and other parents would be willing to help watch out for children crossing the lot during that time. “They just need to be educated about the process,” she said.
Cronin also extends an invitation for parents to attend the upcoming board meeting, and hopes a compromise can be reached. “This provides an appropriate venue to try to find a middle ground. We all want the same thing: the safety of the children, “he said.