Barrier to guard Jackson playground

Saturday, October 18, 2003

A medical organization in Jackson has donated a street barrier that it hopes will prevent vehicles from jumping the curb and landing in a playground at West Lane Elementary School.

The Southeast Missouri Medical Center Inc., a health group established more than 30 years ago, will pay between $5,000 and $7,500 for the safety structure that will guard the playground at the corner of West Lane and Orchard Road.

It's the same organization that is developing a subdivision called Independence Center that will house businesses.

"When we came up with the idea for this subdivision, there were a lot of people concerned about traffic around this area," said Dr. Dwight Johnson, treasurer of the group. "And if there is an increased traffic flow, there will be a lot of cars going by that playground area. There are a lot of kids concentrated in that area, so we unanimously voted to seek out a way to protect those kids."

The speed limit along West Lane is only 20 miles per hour, and there is a curb to help prevent a car from running off the road. There is also a fence on the northern side of the playground to provide some protection.

But the members of the medical group say there's not enough protection, especially considering the playground level is 20 feet below the road level.

West Lane principal Dianne Gregg said there are about 200 children playing on that playground during recess around noon.

Some teachers there say they have never thought about a car running off the road and onto the playground, but like the idea of taking the extra precaution.

"They're all over that playground," said fifth-grade teacher Ellen Lewis. "They're up by the fence. I just never thought of a car careening through there.

Johnson said Southeast Missouri Medical Center board members began discussing the barrier after a California motorist lost control of his vehicle and smashed into a farmers market.

The Jackson Board of Aldermen discussed the issue at Monday night's study session and no opposition was voiced.

"I like the idea that safety is first," said city engineer Dan Triller. "All it takes is one incident that could occur at the right time, at the right place and there could be numerous injuries at one time with potential fatalities. This is just some extra assurance that that type of accident wouldn't occur."

Johnson said the barrier would be installed soon but didn't know for sure when.


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