County officials say the dozens of Evans High School students who caused problems for Evanston subdivision residents by parking on neighborhood streets last school year are gone, thanks to a parking permit system implemented by the county.
Last school year, residents complained that students from other neighborhoods were blocking driveways and postal workers' access to mailboxes by lining the subdivision's streets with cars.
The students accessed the school through a back gate at the dead end of Evanston Drive and often loitered at their vehicles and smoked, according to reports.
On Aug. 16, county commissioners approved the installation of "no parking" signs along streets in Evanston, said Chris Bland, Columbia County's traffic engineer.
The county sent neighborhood residents a letter telling them free tags were available to residents who need to park on the street, and about 11 tags have been distributed, Bland said.
He said the student parking problem appears to have been solved.
"We've looked at it on multiple occasions as far as on-street parking situations, and it appears to be drastically reduced," Bland said.
Still, measures by the school to limit access through the back gate are inconveniencing some neighborhood residents.
Students from the Evanston and Glenwood subdivisions have used the gate in the fence surrounding the school for years to avoid walking along South Belair Road to Cox Road to the school, said Evanston resident Jerry Melton, whose daughter is a ninth-grader at Evans.
He said busing is no longer available in the subdivision because it is so close to the school.
The gate is open for students to use before and immediately after school, but is locked during the school day and afterward, Melton said.
Melton said he is pleased with the parking situation, but concerned about the safety of students walking along Cox Road, which does not have paved sidewalks.
It is also inconvenient for to parents to battle traffic to pick up their children after school, he said.
He says his daughter has been told she can contact an administrator if the gate is locked after school, but Melton said he has seen students walking along Cox Road during heavy traffic and his daughter has seen students jumping the fence to avoid walking around the subdivision.
Also, on football game nights, residents once used the gate as a shortcut and now must walk on Cox Road in heavy traffic or drive, Melton said.
"The reason why they lock the gate is the kids hang around down there and they smoke cigarettes," Melton said he was told by administrators. But "that was when (students) were parking their cars in the neighborhood.
"The only kids that are going to go through that gate are the ones that live in Glenwood and Evanston," he said.
The gate outside Evans High is open for students to use before 8 a.m. and between 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m., said Lance Poss, the school's public safety officer. The gate is locked for school security reasons, he said.
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