A gate at the end of George Gibbs Drive could be opened for summer bike traffic.

The Rochester Park Board voted 6-1 to instruct park staff to find an option to the chained gate that was installed at the intersection of George Gibbs Drive and Sixth Avenue Southwest by early next month.

The intersection was closed to vehicle traffic in 2016 by placing large planters in the street, but park staff installed the gate in November.

ALSO READ: Soldiers Field parking changes approved

Mike Nigbur, the city’s park and forestry division head, said the closure was part of a master plan implemented that started a five-year process in the same year.

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“The purpose of that was to stop people cutting through the park,” he said of past vehicle traffic.

A pair of planters sit where a portion of George Gibbs Drive has been replaced by grass in Soldiers Field Park, while a red metal gate blocks access to the remaining section at Sixth Street Southwest in Soldiers Field Park on Saturday, April 3, 2021. (Randy Petersen/rpetersen@postbulletin.com)
A pair of planters sit where a portion of George Gibbs Drive has been replaced by grass in Soldiers Field Park, while a red metal gate blocks access to the remaining section at Sixth Street Southwest in Soldiers Field Park on Saturday, April 3, 2021. (Randy Petersen/rpetersen@postbulletin.com)

Half of George Gibbs Drive at Sixth Street has been replaced with grass, but a portion of the closed street remains to provide access to Rochesterfest activities. Nigbur said the gate was installed to reduce staff time needed to move the planters when the street is accessed.

Neighbors said the change has become a safety hazard.

“Because the planters were spaced wide enough apart, bicyclists, scooters and people on three-wheeled bikes easily could pass through and continue on their way,” said Historic Southwest Neighborhood board member Edward Cohen.

Fellow neighborhood resident and avid bicyclist Barbara Beck said she understands the effort to change the flow of traffic in and out of the park, but she said the existing sidewalks are too narrow to accommodate bike and pedestrian traffic.

“This is really not an opportune time,” she said, noting that park use is up, which has increased traffic on the sidewalk.

A red metal gate blocks access to George Gibbs Drive on Saturday, April 3, 2021,  at Sixth Street Southwest in Soldiers Field Park. (Randy Petersen/rpetersen@postbulletin.com)
A red metal gate blocks access to George Gibbs Drive on Saturday, April 3, 2021, at Sixth Street Southwest in Soldiers Field Park. (Randy Petersen/rpetersen@postbulletin.com)

Park Board member Angela Gupta agreed. “You almost never pass that without passing other people,” she said.

Gupta urged fellow board members to direct parks and recreation staff to improve bike access to the street within 30 days, but failed to get the needed support. Instead, the board members said they want to see options by the next meeting or an earlier change, if it costs less than $5,000.

Park Board President Linnea Archer was the only member to oppose the move.

“I’m not comfortable with spending $5,000,” she said.

Options discussed Tuesday included putting the planters back in the street or altering the gate to allow bikes and scooters to pass between the two arms.

In other business, the Park Board:

  • Approved a final agreement with the Law Enforcement Memorial group for adding the memorial to Soldiers Field Park.
  • Authorized Arts 4 Trails to place temporary art in the parks.
  • Approved the installation of a kiosk in Friendship Park, with the Meadow Park Initiative taking the responsibility for maintaining the new feature.
  • Approved a $29,670 contract with Webber Recreation and a $12,400 contract with KATS Excavating for installation of new playground equipment in Smekta Park.