Three streets through Jackson’s largest public park are closing for the winter to reduce street clearing efforts and curb illegal activity. At their Tuesday, Jan. 25 meeting, the Jackson City Council voted unanimously to close the streets in Ella Sharp Park. Sections of Birchwood Drive, Maplewood Drive, and W. Hickory Avenue will soon be closed to vehicle traffic for the rest of the winter season, but will remain open to pedestrians.
With no homes or businesses located on the streets, they are designed to connect residents to park facilities and trails. However, over the past year there has been increased illegal activity through Ella Sharp Park with people dumping trash, vandalizing property, and taking large trucks off streets and onto lawns, which tears up grass and causes big ruts. This illegal activity is able to flourish on some streets due to low traffic counts on Birchwood and Maplewood drives. On W. Hickory Avenue, there’s been an increase in traffic volume and crashes due to people driving recklessly.
While City staff deal with more problems in the park, the street conditions are also becoming an issue.With the street surfaces in rough shape, closing them will help preserve their condition for future use. This also means the Dept. of Public Works will have less street surface to clear during the winter months and can give more attention to clearing efforts in neighborhood streets.
Parks and Recreation Director Kelli Hoover says it’s disheartening to see the ongoing damage at the park. “We hope the street closures make a difference in reducing illegal activity in the park,” Hoover said. “Our residents should be able to safely enjoy the park without having to worry about these issues.”
The closure is expected to take place in the coming weeks. Large concrete barriers will be placed on the streets to block vehicle traffic. The closure means W. Hickory Avenue between the parks maintenance garage and Horton Road will be closed, along with Birchwood Drive between the Golf Learning Center and Maplewood Drive, and Maplewood Drive between the softball parking lot and Probert Road.