THE ACREAGE — In The Acreage, the issue of darkness and light is always hotly debated.
The latest outcry: A few miles north of where residents and community leaders have blasted Palm Beach County for putting in too many streetlights and ruining their nighttime darkness, residents now want more lights for children’s safety.
“We believe the county and the school board need to address the issue as opposed to just talking about it for a year and a half,” said homemaker Karen Keogh, who heads a group of parents who want more lights on Seminole Pratt-Whitney Road north of Seminole Ridge High. “We are done talking.”
Keogh led a march of parents last week from the shopping center near Seminole Pratt-Whitney and Persimmon Boulevard south to the high school. She said she plans another march and wants parents to attend county commission and school board meetings to lobby for streetlights, sidewalks and flashing lights to mark crosswalks along that section of road.
The issue arose after 17-year-old Ryan Garcia was hit by a bus while crossing the road north of the school just before sunrise Oct. 27. Garcia survived.
After the crash, board members of the Indian Trail Improvement District called on the county to improve lighting along that stretch of road. Board president Michelle Damone said the board also passed a resolution last year asking the county for improved lighting near the high school.
Keogh said many students live within a two-mile radius of the school and do not get bus service.
County Traffic Division Director Dan Weisberg said the county has plans for additional streetlights from the high school to Sycamore Drive, about three-quarters of a mile south. But Weisberg said the county had no plans for additional lights or sidewalks north to 60th Street North, where Keogh wants the lights.
A sidewalk already exists on the east side of that northern stretch of road, as do four street lights at the school’s main entrance, Weisberg said.
The county also has no plans for flashing signs to mark crosswalks, Weisberg said. He said the county usually does those only near elementary and middle schools.
Keogh said the northern stretch is the area that needs lights. She said the sidewalk stretches only to the shopping center, and the lights and sidewalk should go all the way to 60th Street North.
The sidewalk should be on the west side of the road as well, so students walking to school from streets west of Seminole Pratt-Whitney Road don’t have to cross in the dark, she said.
“It’s not enough when it’s really dark out there. You can’t see the kids in the street,” Keogh said. “The lights at the high school are so dim, I don’t know if motorists even know there is a school there.”
The school is about three miles north of a stretch of Seminole Pratt-Whitney where Acreage residents rose up against lights this summer. Residents and Indian Trail board members nicknamed the 1.5-mile stretch between State Road 80 and Okeechobee Boulevard “the landing strip” after the county installed bright streetlights along the east side of the road.
Residents complained that the lights ruined the community’s peaceful, dark country nights. County traffic officials later agreed to switch the lights to lower-wattage bulbs.
Keogh said Acreage parents feel ignored by their elected officials, particularly County Commissioner Jess Santamaria, for not doing something to get more lights and sidewalks sooner near the high school.
“The county is doing nothing to protect our children, yet the children are told they have to walk to school,” Keogh said.
Santamaria said he had received only one e-mail from a resident about the issue since the Garcia accident. He said he was unaware of the drive to get more lights north of the high school, but that if the parents contact him he would be glad to arrange a meeting with county traffic officials.
Keogh said she was drafting a letter that would go to all county commissioners and school board members soon.
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