By LINDA MOSS
Local officials are weighing ways to help residents who live on Mount Vernon Road, who claim that cars are speeding down their street and illegally parking in order to take their canines to the dog park in Brookdale Park.
At its meeting on Tuesday night the Township Council heard about a variety of options that could address the concerns of the residents, whose dead-end street is right off Grove Street north of Gordonhurst Avenue, with the possible solutions including additional signs, various restrictions on parking, traffic calming, changing the park entrance at the site and mandating parking on only one side of Mount Vernon Road.
“There are a number of things you can do to ameliorate the problem … I don’t think it’s going to be one panacea,” Mayor Robert Jackson said. “I think there’s going to be 10 things that we can do … to address these issues. We need to figure out what those are.”
The mayor and council want to have recommendations on what action or actions to take at their March 28 meeting.
Several Mount Vernon Road residents talked about the problems they face because of their proximity to the dog park, particularly vehicles racing down their short block and almost hitting the many young children who live in the neighborhood. One woman estimated that there are more than two dozen children and youths under age 17 who live on the block.
Some of the dog-park visitors have their dogs off their leashes, posing another threat to children, according to residents.
”We have an awful lot of people parking down there, specifically to use the dog park, despite the the fact that there’s ample parking within the park,” Alex Baddeley told the council.
In addition, people coming to the county dog park are sometimes blocking driveways on Mount Vernon when they park, residents said. One woman said that when she has placed notes on offending vehicles, she later finds the missives torn up and thrown on her lawn.
Residents have also complained to Essex County officials, and District 5 Freeholder Cynthia Toro was at the council meeting. She said she had talked to County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. about the dog-park issue. Toro suggested perhaps adding five or six parking spaces next to the park, or having County Sheriff’s Department vehicles more visible in the area as a deterrent.
“I don’t know how much more the county can do,” she said.
But Third Ward Councilman Sean Spiller disagreed with Toro.
“I would push back when you say it’s a local issue when we’ve got a dog park that’s on county property that’s being used for dogs that are off-leash on one of the township streets,” Spiller said. “I would highly press the county executive and say, ‘Look, we should be looking at solutions, because if something was to happen, that’s a serious challenge.’ It’s not just a local issue.”
Lt. Stephanie Egnezzo, the Montclair Police Department’s traffic bureau commander, has been working with Mount Vernon Road residents to deal with the parking problem. Police are ticketing illegally parked cars, “but the same people are still coming back,” she said.
Having a lot of cars parked along Mount Vernon Road poses a potential safety hazard, in terms of clearance for emergency vehicles, as well, Egnezzo said.
“It’s such a narrow street,” she said. “It’s 25 feet wide. I’ve had numerous conversations with Miss [Township Engineer Kim] Craft about the issue, as well.”
One option is to recommend no-parking on one side of the street, according to Egnezzo.
Craft was also at the meeting, and said it was unlikely Mount Vernon Road would qualify for traffic-calming measures such as speed humps.
One reason why dog owners are parking on Mount Vernon Road off Grove Street is because they don’t want to bother entering Brookdale Park on Bellevue Avenue and then have to exit at Watchung Avenue, one resident told the council.