Woodland set to be car-free

FAIRMONT — Anyone who has ever lived on, walked by or driven down Woodland Avenue on Halloween night probably has shared the same thought: Why don’t they blocked off the street before somebody gets hurt?

That’s the question Woodland Avenue resident Marilyn Forstrom asked the Fairmont City Council on Monday. Forstrom, who served as spokesperson for several neighbors, said the safety concerns were felt citywide.

“It’s not just the people who live there,” she said.

Forstrom has lived on the street for 40 years, and the past 10 have seen a staggering increase in the number of families that spend Halloween evening seeking candy in the neighborhood.

“I’m not sure how this happened, that we have 1,000 trick-or-treaters on Woodland Avenue every Halloween,” she said. “It so much fun, but it’s only a matter of time before someone gets hurt.”

Ideally, she said, Woodland would be blocked to automobile traffic from Albion Avenue to Lake Park Boulevard from 4:30-7:30 p.m. on Halloween. She admitted it might be an inconvenience for some, but it was only for a short period of time. In previous years, the city was reluctant to block off the street due to it being the ambulance route from its garage to Lakeview Methodist Health Care Center, but with the new ambulance garage located next to the hospital, alternative routes are available.

Each year, Jodie Geerdes’ yard at 310 Woodland is blanketed with Halloween decorations, making it a powerful draw to children.

“My house has 1,500 kids that visit annually,” she said. “We’ve been tossing around different (safety) ideas. I don’t know what the answer is, but you’ve got a lot of people willing to help.”

Councilman Bruce Peters asked Police Chief Mike Hunter to weigh in on the matter of blocking the street.

“I’d be in favor of it,” Hunter said. “If it’s something the council would like to happen, we can make it happen.”

“I think it should be closed. It’s just for a few hours,” said Councilman Tom Hawkins, referring to Woodland Avenue as “the destination” for trick-or-treaters. “It’s a short-term inconvenience for a bigger benefit. I don’t see why we can’t give it a try. Let’s just go for it.”

Hunter said consideration could be made for residents returning home after work.

“If there’s local traffic, we can get them there,” he said.

Peters made a motion to allow the Fairmont Police Department to limit traffic on Woodland Avenue on Halloween evening at their discretion, and Councilman Wayne Hasek seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.

Hunter said he should be ready later this week to publicize the street closure, and local traffic and address parking.