Mill Creek MetroParks leadership is asking patrons to follow road or trail closures — not because they simply say so, but because it’s a matter of safety.
“There’s reasons why there are certain places in certain parts you can’t be at,” James Willock, the park district’s police chief, said.
One area in particular that people seem to ignore the warnings is on East Newport Drive, where the road is closed to all traffic due to a significant slope toward the lake.
Once park maintenance crews observed asphalt cracking earlier this year, they took the issue to the planning department for further consideration.
The road has been closed all summer, said MetroParks Executive Director Aaron Young, because an engineering firm is measuring the rate at which the slope is growing.
Samer Awadallah, a project engineer with CT Consultants, explained that the company hired the structural engineering firm SME of the Columbus area to investigate what is causing the slope.
“They went to the site and found it appears to be continuous movement,” Awadallah said.
SME drilled to bedrock, installing a device to monitor the shifting over a period of time.
As the firm continues to study what is causing the road’s sloping behavior, Awadallah said a recommendation for a solution will be presented to the park administration, which would include cost and a timeline of when work can be completed — something Young is hopeful can be done in 2021.
When the cracks in the pavement first were noticed, Awadallah and Young said they measured just about 4 inches, and as of right now the slope at its steepest is just over 4 feet, Young said.
Awadallah said that previously, the park replaced the pavement when cracking in the area appeared, but “it did not work out,” adding: “It’s more critical.”
Also critical is signage at the road closure, and people staying away from the area.
“It’s really important staying away from there. … It’s not stable. Anything that’s not stable you should not be right by it. As much as you can, stay away from it,” Awadallah said.
There are signs that announce the closure. Earlier in the season, there was more of a warning sign, but Willock said someone took it.
“There was one (sign) on each end,” he said.
Other closures in the park system also are experiencing people not following the notices.
The Canfield bikeway was closed between state Route 446 and Herbert Road as it saw repairs starting Aug. 10, with walkers and bicyclists moving barricades and signs to walk through the construction site.
That poses a safety hazard to the park patrons, Young said, as well as to the construction workers who also have to keep an eye out for others when the area is closed.
In the last two months, Willock said people have moved barricades at the area known as “the flats” for ongoing improvement projects that closed the section for parking.
“We had fresh paint, fresh concrete… People move (the barricades) and go right in there” to park their vehicles, he said.
As a result one morning, Willock said the crews had to wait until the people came back to their cars and left, which pushed the work back a day.
To help with the issue of people going beyond closure signs, Willock said he’s had to take his already smaller staff of five to six officers to sit for hours at places such as East Newport Drive, when they should be checking other parts of the county that have satellite parks.
Besides areas being closed for safety and scheduling, if a person falls or gets injured, it might take awhile before emergency personnel are notified and make it to the scene, Willock said, especially as is the case on Newport.
“It’s a dangerous area. That area could fly downhill any time,” he said.
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