Where the sidewalk … begins?
ASPEN A local mom has been fighting with the Aspen School District over what she termed “clear negligence and reckless endangerment” of student safety – specifically, a lack of sidewalks leading into the public schools campus from nearby neighborhoods.By late Thursday evening, it looked as though her efforts had borne fruit.Superintendent Diana Sirko said this week the district has been working on the problem and agreed the state of affairs has been “certainly less than ideal.” She said the district has made efforts to remedy the situation and is seeking a permanent solution, citing a meeting held Thursday about the issue.”We met today and worked on both short- and long-term solutions,” Sirko wrote in an e-mail Thursday evening, as she went from meeting to meeting.”The short-term solutions will be in place by Monday, and long-term solutions will be put in place this summer,” Sirko said. “We need to resolve some easement and access issues first.”The dispute has been going on for nearly a year, and was started by Rebecca Driscoll, a Five Trees subdivision resident with one child in elementary school and another set to begin school next year. She first e-mailed Sirko in May 2006 to complain about a lack of sidewalks along the roads leading from the three-way-stop intersection into the upper high school parking lot. The intersection is where Moore Drive and High School Road meet. One of Driscoll’s neighbors in Five Trees agreed it is a dangerous situation.”It’s a free-for-all in the mornings,” said Molly Ireland, whose son, Jack Bird, was struck by a car when crossing the high school lot a couple of years ago. He was not seriously injured, but the incident got Ireland talking with school officials.”It’s people dropping kids off … and it’s high school kids driving” that make it a hazardous place to walk, said Ireland, “especially for little kids, because they are hard to see.” She agreed with Driscoll that the first thing to be done is to pave a sidewalk from the three-way intersection around the lawn in front of the Cottage, linking up with the sidewalk that circles the high school, to get kids out of traffic.Sirko acknowledged that Driscoll sent the e-mail nearly a year ago, but said it somehow slipped through the cracks in the barrage of communications she receives daily. When she discovered the e-mail in her mailbox last August, she said she immediately contacted Driscoll and began a dialogue.Driscoll, meanwhile, has argued there are “easy, temporary solutions close at hand.” She has suggested the district administration “drop a rope and push back the cars parked in front of the daycare cottage a few feet, so the pedestrians have SOMEWHERE to go except down the middle of the street.”In an e-mail sent this week to school board member Charla Belinski, Driscoll recommended the district “put up a temporary wooden sidewalk” between the parked cars and the fence around the day-care cottage.Sirko said a work crew recently moved some boulders that line the road into campus, in order to provide a place for pedestrians to walk out of the traffic lanes, and that the district has been holding meetings to discuss the issue. She also noted that Five Trees subdivision is planning to install sidewalks, “and naturally we’d want our sidewalks to meet up with theirs.”In addition to e-mailing Sirko and members of the school board, Driscoll has involved Police Chief Loren Ryerson, Aspen City Council member J.E. DeVilbiss and Pitkin County Commissioner Dorothea Farris in the debate. As indicated by their e-mails, the officials seem sympathetic with Driscoll’s arguments, but uncertain how they could help.Ryerson called the matter “a fairly complex issue” and noted in an e-mail, provided to The Aspen Times by Driscoll, that the city and the county have little leverage since the land involved is on either private or school district property.Farris wrote to Driscoll to affirm that county officials are looking into land ownership questions and whether or not a path could be established for the kids to use.”I agree,” wrote Farris, “this lack of action is unacceptable.”Although she was far from happy, telling all who will listen that kids are still in danger of being hit by cars, Driscoll wrote in a concluding e-mail this week, “At least I have them talking.”John Colson’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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