Cimmaron Drive is one of those collector roads that ITT designed in Palm Coast as if to give engineers nightmares, like Florida Park Drive: it’s narrow, single-family residential homes almost hug the road in close succession, and there’s not much you can do with rights of way because there barely are any. There’s no room for sidewalks, and even swales seem to have a hard time soaking it in.
Stretching among some of the city’s more walkable areas between Palm Harbor Parkway and Cimmaron’s entrance to The Sanctuary, the gated community, it was a matter of time before residents would start complaining about the road’s degradation and its impact on their ability to walk it, ride it or skirt its often indifferent traffic. That time is now.
Residents are clamoring for a sidewalk.
For the past couple of Palm Coast City Council meetings, residents along the road, or those who like to ride their bikes and walk their dogs along it, have been imploring the council to address the road’s literal fraying at the edges: the asphalt in part turns to miniature cliffs of Dover rather than slope into the grass, and in rainy days, the narrow swales make it difficult to step off the macadam. For bikers skirting the edge of the road, its sudden fractures can be unnerving. (See the brief video of the length of Cimmaron Drive below.)
Deborah Sines moved to Palm Coast in 2018 and assured the council earlier this week that she’s “not one of those northerners that wants to come down here and change anything.” But she had to stop walking her dog on Cimmaron Drive, where she lives, and now has to drive her dog to a preserve, because the swales on both sides of the road make it “dangerous.” She described a close call with a truck in March.
“This situation has just gotten to be so dangerous,” another resident and walker said. “The roads deteriorate as they get to the edge, they do slant down. So we’re walking kind of out of tilt. If you go off the road you might hit a ditch or a dip where it’s lost a lot of the dirt. Sometimes the grass is even with the road, sometimes it’s a 4-, 5-inch drop.”
A third resident who moved to the city in 2001 and for 15 years walked and biked along the road, “no problem.” The problem arose in the last two years. He attributes the deterioration to the ongoing building boom, particularly at The Sanctuary subdivision. “There are 170 lots in the Sanctuary,” he said, “100 have been built on, so that’s going to be another 70 homes with all the traffic going in and out. The other thing that’s going to happen along with all the buildings going on, once people move in, you’re going to find out that you’re going to have all the lawn mowers coming in and all the maintenance coming in, that’s going to put more stress on Cimmaron Drive.”
He asked for the council to consider building a pedestrian walkway along Cimmaron “and maybe use this as an experiment for other parts of the city because I’m sure it’s going to be coming up in parts of the city that do not have sidewalks,” the resident said.
A woman phoning in her comment said she’d been biking along Cimmaron since 2008, but that road “has been getting increasingly more dangerous over the years with increased traffic and speeding drivers. “We’d like to see a minimum of a bike pedestrian lane on one or both sides of the busy street. To ride on the side of the road which is now deteriorating terribly, as mentioned by earlier speakers, is getting very dangerous, and there is going to be an accident.”
Based on the street’s layout, however, a pedestrian walkway would be possible only if residents were willing to see their driveways and front yards encroached to accommodate the path.
At a council workshop last week a Cimmaron resident spoke of the road’s hazards to school children, as they wait for their buses. “It’s an accident waiting to happen. It’s just a matter of time,” he said.
Getting a sidewalk is complicated, though–grimly, inexcusably–it has taken pedestrian fatalities to get the concrete pouring in the past: it was only after the death of a 16-year-old Matanzas high school student, struck by a car at night in 2017 as the student was walking there with a friend, that the city finally moved to build a sidewalk and add lights to Lakeview Parkway at the north end of the city. The current council has been more active than its predecessors in lighting up the city.
“There is a rhyme and reason why sidewalks are put in place some of them are restricted for certain reasons so I’m not familiar with Cimmaron and what those restrictions would be,” Mayor Milissa Holland said at a workshop earlier this month, after hearing the Cimmaron complaints. She said a needs analysis was the first and necessary step. If at that point the council deems a sidewalk necessary, the proposal is added to the city’s capital projects list and funding is sought. If the Transportation Planning Organization or the Florida Department of Transportation is the funding source, other requirements kick in.
Holland directed Morton to “meet with your staff and determine what conversations have taken place, and any studies that have been done historically in that part of our community,” and report back. “And the TPO director, by the way, lives over in that area, so I’ll be sure to make sure that she goes out there and takes an extra look at it as well,” Holland said, referring to the Transportation Planning Organization.