2/13/19: OF PEDESTRIAN CROSSWALKS, SOUTH DOGWOOD TRAIL, THE MARITIME FOREST, SPEED LIMITS, AND SAFE DRIVING; Planning Board Meets Tuesday, Feb. 19, at 5:30 p.m.

crosswalk
This crosswalk serves pedestrians at the intersection of Wax Myrtle Trail with East Dogwood Trail, which now has a sidewalk on its south side from N.C. Hwy 12 to the Dogwoods intersection.

Yvonne Sternberg of Hickory Trail made an observation about pedestrian crosswalks during public comments at the Town Council’s Feb. 5 meeting that struck The Beacon as worthy of followup. At last, here is the followup.

After thanking the Council for the “nice” new sidewalk on East Dogwood Trail, Ms. Sternberg observed that pedestrian crosswalks now exist on East Dogwood at its intersections with Wax Myrtle and Sea Oats trails and Hillcrest Drive, where the road is divided, but not at its intersections with Woodland Drive and Hickory Trail. (See above photo.)

“I was just wondering,” Ms. Sternberg said, “why these two streets were not connected to the sidewalks as the others have been.”

Ms. Sternberg did not receive a response from any Town Council members, who generally do not interact with the public during the comment period. But no one returned to her inquiry later in the meeting, either, when response would have been appropriate.

The Beacon believes Ms. Sternberg raises an excellent point insofar as the Hickory Trail-East Dogwood Trail intersection is concerned, less so with the Woodland Drive-East Dogwood Trail intersection, which is controlled by a single stop sign on Woodland.

Further, The Beacon believes the same point, which has to do with public safety, could be made about the intersection of East Dogwood Trail with North and South Dogwood trails (hereinafter referred to as the “Dogwoods intersection”).

(Full disclosure: I live on Hickory Trail near the street’s intersection with East Dogwood Trail and often talk with Ms. Sternberg when we are both walking our dogs.)

Like the Dogwoods intersection, the intersection of Hickory Trail with East Dogwood Trail is controlled by a three-way stop. During summer weekends, these intersections teem with vehicles cutting through Southern Shores en route to the northern beaches.

Drivers turning left (going north) onto Hickory from East Dogwood Trail often run the stop sign there, as do drivers turning right (going east) from South Dogwood Trail to East Dogwood Trail. In fact, it’s the rare driver who comes to a full stop at either location.

The Beacon has not read any residential-street data that assess the comparative safety of pedestrian-crosswalk-controlled intersections versus intersections without crosswalks, but it stands to reason that crosswalks and signs indicating them would alert drivers to the presence of pedestrians and slow them down. They also would enhance the safety of walkers and joggers seeking to cross the streets.

So why aren’t there crosswalks at the two major cut-through intersections with East Dogwood Trail? It surely can’t be because the cost of “installing” them is prohibitive. If the answer is “it’s an oversight,” then the Town needs to correct it. If there’s another answer, then residents deserve to hear it.

YESTERDAY’S CIIP COMMITTEE MEETING: PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS ABOUT SOUTH DOGWOOD TRAIL AND DRIVING ON OUR ROADS

I attended two hours of yesterday afternoon’s Capital Infrastructure Improvement Planning (CIIP) Committee meeting, which focused on the future “improvement” of South Dogwood Trail. Because of a family commitment, I had to leave before its conclusion. The Beacon’s correspondent, who has engineering experience, will be filing a report on the meeting soon, and I will augment it. Today, I’d just like to make a few personal observations.

I have a strong emotional attachment to South Dogwood Trail. I fell in love with South Dogwood Trail and the grand and glorious maritime forest of Southern Shores when I was an adolescent in 1968-69 and saw both for the first time. As corny or as sappy as it may sound, I told my family later when I was in high school, “I’m going to live in the Southern Shores woods when I grow up.”

I didn’t say I would live in the Outer Banks or in Southern Shores. I specifically wanted to live in the woods, whose beauty and allure captivated me 50 years ago. That was my goal, and I made my future in Southern Shores happen.

You would not believe how lush, full, and beguiling the “uninterrupted” moss-laden forest once was. It truly spoke to me, and it still does, in spite of the unabated clear-cutting of lots that the Town has allowed to occur and what I would characterize as the suburban sensibilities of some homeowners, many of whom have primary homes elsewhere.

The canopy was especially fabulous. Today when I use that word, many residents don’t even know what I’m talking about.

The tree cover of the roads—which has been destroyed in too many areas of South Dogwood Trail—is the canopy

You don’t see ugly utility poles in the maritime forest. The utilities were installed underground to preserve the trees and protect the canopy they create over the quaint residential roads. The developers showed vision.

To hear Town Engineer Joe Anlauf of Deel Engineering PLLC speak at yesterday’s CIIP Committee meeting of the Southern Shores woods as if they existed in any ole “subdivision” and of historic South Dogwood Trail as just another “collector street” is to hear the voice of someone who is unappreciative of, and estranged from, Southern Shores.

Every time he talks about the number of trees that he envisions destroying, I see many more becoming casualties, and Mr. Anlauf doesn’t deny that his numbers are minimum numbers.

Yes, I know he’s an engineer. Yes, I know he has a bottom-line interest. No, it’s not his job to preserve what’s left of the Southern Shores maritime forest. But he’s been driving the discussion about South Dogwood Trail—with the Town Manager’s and the CIIP Committee’s complicity—and that has to stop.

Carlos Gomez, who was appointed to the committee by Councilman Gary McDonald, is also an engineer, and he had no difficulty yesterday in advocating for preservation of the maritime forest and protecting what he called the “human resources.”

“The maritime forest is a treasure,” he said. It is our treasure. The human element should not be a mere afterthought in infrastructure planning for Southern Shores.

“We’re missing the community,” Mr. Gomez said, urging that landscape architecture be part of the planning for South Dogwood Trail and other residential streets and that guidelines for preservation be developed.

I thank Mr. Gomez, who is a civil and structural engineer, as well as a land surveyor, for his many contributions yesterday, and I join him in urging the Town Council to think first of preservation before it decides upon “improvements.” If elected officials are not stewards for nature, there soon will be no nature to protect.

*****

Having evoked my past, I now state unequivocally that I do not live in the past. I live in the now, and I feel a responsibility for the future. The future to which I refer is the future of this place we call home, not only for the benefit of my family, who will be here long after I’m gone, but for the benefit of the thousands of people I will never meet.

As for the now, I am going to do something that I have never done before in print—because I’ve always thought it was pompous to do so—and that is criticize other people’s driving. I promise you I won’t name names.

I am astonished by how selfishly some people drive on Southern Shores’ residential streets, especially on South Dogwood Trail.

The section of South Dogwood Trail that Mr. Anlauf and the CIIP Committee talked about yesterday consists of 1.4 miles.

One-point-four miles. One-point-four measly miles.

To drive it slowly, carefully, and alertly, stopping at all of the stop signs, and giving walkers, joggers, and bicyclists, a wide berth, takes how many minutes out of someone’s day? Ten minutes, maximum?

Last week I discussed with two acquaintances, whom I do not know well, the possibility of South Dogwood Trail being widened. One of them, a thoughtful lawyer, immediately suggested lowering the speed limit to 20 miles per hour, which was a suggestion that I made yesterday to the CIIP Committee.

I don’t think there’s any doubt that a lower speed limit, if observed and enforced, would enhance public safety.

The other acquaintance groaned. He dislikes the current 25-mile-per-hour limit and complained that the Southern Shores police have stopped him for speeding.

Just how fast does he need to drive to get to the Duck Woods Country Club? And why does he think his convenience should be part of any discussion about “improving” South Dogwood Trail?

Good drivers—here you may think me “pompous”—don’t speed or run stop signs, and they don’t crowd walkers, joggers, bicyclists, and anyone else on the side of the road. They slow down. They stop, if they have to. They wait for an oncoming car to pass before they go around pedestrians, giving them a full 10-foot cushion.

How hard are any of the above to do?

It has been my experience as a dog walker that most local drivers are courteous. I always wave and say thank you to the drivers who give me ample space, and I try to keep my dog off of the road and in the grass.

But I have seen two pickup truck drivers, or two SUV drivers, traveling in opposing directions, pass each other when a dog walker is on the side of the road near one, and I have blanched. If that dog were to become spooked for some reason and dart out into the road, the driver who hits him would feel heartsick.

Why push it? Don’t crowd pedestrians and their dogs. Just wait.

Often when I drive South Dogwood Trail and other residential streets in Southern Shores, I think back to my driver’s education days in high school, when I sat at a simulator and had to be on guard for the dog who jumped out in front of me or the rolling ball that surely preceded the playing child. It only takes a split-second for a hazard to appear.

I think about the principles of safe driving that I learned as a teenager:

“Get the big picture.”

“Leave yourself an out.”

The one that I see violated every day in Southern Shores instructed drivers to know what’s ahead of them, and not just five feet ahead of their vehicles, but as far ahead as they can see. A lot of safe driving has to do with anticipation. It’s not just put your foot to the gas and go. You never assume that your path will be free of obstacles.

For example, if you’re going to run the stop sign at East Dogwood Trail and turn left (south) on to South Dogwood Trail—as I observed a woman in an SUV do earlier this week—you have to anticipate that you could run smack into an oncoming vehicle in your lane that is going around two dog walkers on the side of the road.

You’re driving in a residential neighborhood, not on a highway.

By running the stop sign, you have not given the driver of the oncoming vehicle the time she expected to have to clear the dog walkers. Fortunately, she knows to anticipate that you will run the stop sign and be talking on your cell phone, as this woman was, so she stops (I stopped) to wait for you to pass.

The good driver anticipates that hazard. But she still can’t help but wish that you would think first about the hazard that you present down the road when you run the stop sign.

SUMMER IS COMING: It’s not too early to start lobbying the Town Council to take action to prevent the cut-through traffic from ruining our weekends. Mayor Tom Bennett and the rest of the Town Council represent the people of Southern Shores, not Currituck County or the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce. Our elected officials and Town staff can do far more than they have done in recent years to protect our safety, quiet enjoyment, and quality of life.

PLANNING BOARD MEETS ON FEB. 19, 5:30 P.M.

I conclude with notice that the Town Planning Board will meet Tues., Feb. 19, at 5:30 p.m., in the Pitts Center.

The Beacon thought the Board would be reviewing and approving the high-occupancy/large single-family dwelling zoning text amendments that it has directed Town staff to prepare, but the meeting notice posted Monday on the Town website does not say that. The notice says only that the “Board will continue discussion of ZTA-18-09,” which is the nonconforming lots ZTA, and “may also continue discussion of high occupancy/large single-family dwellings.”

See https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/planning-board-meet-february-19-2019-530-p-m/.

If the notice changes before the meeting, The Beacon will report the changes.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 2/13/19

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