Street closed for safety at cowboy celebration
By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor
After a protracted discussion, Bandera City Council voted to approve closure of a portion of 13th Street for the Frontier Times Museum's celebration of National Day of the American Cowboy celebration.
Board of Trustees President Harry Harris requested the closure between Hackberry and Pecan streets from 8 am to 4 pm, on Saturday, July 27. While at times it seemed as though council was poised to deny his request, in the end, three blocks will be closed in the interest of public safety.
Because this year marks the museum's 80th anniversary, Harris said trustees wanted to celebrate the seminal western holiday on the museum grounds rather than on the lawn of the Bandera County Courthouse as in previous years. "Since this will be the first celebration at the museum, we would like the street to be closed for the sake of safety," Harris said. He expects 800 to 1,000 people to attend the activities.
Because of a concern that traffic on the street might present a hazard to pedestrians during the daylong celebration, Harris asked that the portion of 13th Street in front of the museum be closed. "We visited with all the neighbors and only one voiced a concern and that was that ambulances might be hindered," Harris said. "However, in the past, museum personnel haven't noticed a lot of ambulances going up and down 13th Street."
Mayor Don Clark said closing the street in front of the museum would lead to a "heck of a bottleneck." He said, "Traffic on 13th Street is almost as busy as Main Street. Closing it would really concern me." He also noted that as a 'neighbor' he hadn't been consulted about the possible closure. Clark lives at 406 13th Street.
"We canvassed the neighborhood door-to-door," Harris said. "Maybe you just weren't home when we came to your house, Mr. Mayor."
Supporting Clark's opposition to closing 13th Street. Rather than the street closure, City Administrator Mike Cardenas favored designating special pedestrian crossings. Additionally, he indicated that "No through traffic" signs would need to be placed on Highways 173 and 16 - well in advance of any street closure.
"With a narrow right-of-way and vehicles parked along the road, it would be hard to see the street closure until motorists were right on it," Cardenas said.
While the museum had no plans for placing vendors in the middle of 13th Street, Harris said the afternoon would include a classic car display, lots of animals and a contingent of the Bandera Posse, among other attractions. "These all pose pedestrian concerns," Harris said, "especially for people crossing from the parking lot of the First Baptist Church."
"Why are you closing 13th Street?" Clark asked belatedly, "when closing 12th Street would make it easier."
According to Harris, moving the event from the courthouse complex on Main Street to 510 13th Street would attract more people to the Frontier Times Museum, which sponsors Bandera's celebration of the National Day of the American Cowboy.
Bringing a voice of reason to the discussion, Bandera County Attorney Janna Lindig, who also serves as a museum trustee, said, "You're making the best argument for closing the street. If this is a high traffic area, it must be closed off for safety purposes."
Patricia Moore, who lives on Pecan Street, said she uses the intersection several times a day and was continually surprised "at the amount of non-traffic" on the street. She suggested closing the street one block off Hackberry or Pecan streets, creating a zig-zag traffic pattern.
City Marshal James "Charlie" Hicks told council he did not plan to detail an extra officer to handle detours and traffic control.
When a city resident suggested that those requesting street closures pay for the privilege, Councilman Maggie Schumacher - seemingly the only member of city council with institutional memory - said, "I believe we're already instituted a policy that allows the city to charge $200 for a street closure and more if additional security is needed." Cardenas concurred.
"This huge event will have a lot of people coming and going and I'm concerned about foot traffic," said Councilman Binky Archer.
Schumacher added, "I suggest we err on the side of security and work with Mike on placement of the detour signs."
In the end, it was decided that that detour signs be placed a block ahead of the street closure at Cherry and Cedar streets, "where most people will be walking."
"I've changed my mind and will go with the closure at Cedar and Cherry," Clark said. The vote to close 13th Street was approved 3-1 with Councilman Jim Hannah casting the lone "nay" vote.
Explaining his vote, he said he had previously promised unidentified constituents that he would vote against the closing. However, Hannah also apologized to Harris for his failure to support the museum's request.
Councilman Brandi Morgan was absent.