For many years the section of property in the middle of West Neighbor Street in Newcomerstown has been referred to as "the island" by local citizens.
While its original purpose is not definitely known, it is believed that it was intended as a small park. It was possibly constructed when the village streets were originally paved with red brick around 1920.
According to an undated Newcomerstown News clipping from the late 1930's, early 1940s, the pine trees, and several varieties of hardy plants, flowers were donated by some of the west Neighbor Street residents as an attempt to make the property seem more like a park area. In recent years, the trees are now towering, and property is void of any plants, flowers, or any other signs that would indicate that it is a park, or had any type of local historical significance. While it seems to no longer have a real purpose, it does still remain a familiar site to Newcomerstown residents, mainly to those that reside nearby.
Though the island is considered a local landmark, the village is now questioning whether it is time to do something useful with it, or remove it so as to resolve ongoing issues with the traffic flow, and lack of parking when the ball field is being used.
The main issue brought up during the recent council session (May 15) was concerning the two stop signs that are located in the alley running from Main Street to Neighbor Street. According to reports drivers are going at excessive speeds through the alley way, and ignoring the first stop sign at the end of the alley, proceeding onto the second stop sign that is located on West Neighbor Street. Village officials voiced concern that a serious accident will eventually occur, possibly involving pedestrians. Many children also reside in the vicinity, and a child care center is maintained at the Nazarene Church, also located nearby.
Several suggestions were discussed, including the use of speed bumps. At this same time the traffic flow, and reports of citizen's confusion of whether the street is considered a one-way street, was also brought into the equation. Since the street is narrow, and splits, winding around the island, it creates confusion with drivers as to whether they should be driving east or west, and on which section of street they should proceed. The village says the street is not a one-way, but said that it should possibly be considered to be made a one-way street so that the traffic flow will be clearly understood. It was noted that the alley way directly across from the stop sign (entering the ball field) proceeds, and does become a one-way, and has a sign indicating this.
It was later discussed that if the island were removed, the street could be widened, and also facilitate more parking. At the present time the lack of parking has been a major problem, especially when a ball game or other event is occurring at the ball field. Mayor Pat Cadle said he believed residents of West Neighbor Street should have a chance to provide some input into the situation, and he plans to arrange door to door interviews with the residents who live nearby and see whether they feel the island should be removed, kept, and/or whether the street should be made a one-way street.
Mayor Cadle said the village owns the island and maintains mowing and responsibility of the upkeep of the trees. Another plus if the island were removed there would no longer be the cost of mowing and upkeep, which would be a savings for the village. Mayor Cadle said these were all issues to consider before any plan of action is decided.