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Christmas Tree Lane residents air concerns
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Residents of Christmas Tree Lane - a Ceres tradition since 1961 - aired their grievances last week at a special City Council study session about annual problems with theft, trash and traffic.

City officials pledged to do what they can to help.

The council also decided against moving the annual Christmas Festival from Smyrna Park to the Ceres Community Center as a way of trimming costs.

Residents who decorate their homes and yards along Henry Avenue and Vaughn Street for the annual Christmas Tree Lane voiced concerns about the conduct of visitors and the presence of vendors. The meeting was intended to head off similar problems when Christmas Tree Lane opens after the Saturday, Dec. 3 festival.

Last year, vendors of hot cocoa and glow-in-the-dark necklaces began popping up on the lane which upset some homeowners who felt the lane was becoming a commercial enterprise for some.

"Everyone agreed that street vending was a nuisance and a public safety hazard," said Christmas Tree Lane resident Ezra Ivey.

Others expressed concern about:

• Theft of Christmas light bulbs and yard decorations;

• Trash being tossed in the street despite the presence of trash containers;

• Lack of enough street sweeping;

• Lack of adequate lighting, given that many motorists turn off headlights when driving through the lane and the lack of street lights on Vaughn and only two to three on Henry. Residents suggested new old fashioned style street lights;

• Traffic congestion.

• Elderly residents need help in decorating yards and houses.

Residents said they felt the city offered them little support in the past.

Police Chief and acting City Manager Art deWerk said he will arrange for additional street sweeps and more frequent pick-ups of trash containers. He also wants to step up the presence of Volunteers in Public Safety (VIPS) and Police Explorers on weekends for traffic controls. The city is also considering making Christmas Tree Lane a one-way direction on weekends and temporary placement of speed bumps.

Some residents would like to see a uniform "lights out" policy so the lane would not continue drawing visitors late into the night and early morning hours. Mayor Chris Vierra suggested that the neighbors organize a group to talk about a consensus.

No moving of festival

The council also discussed the possibility of relocating the annual festival from the covered area of Smyrna Park to save money.

Last year the city had a budget of $2,000 for the festival but only has $1,000 to spend this year.

Relocating the festival to the community center would have resulted in a savings of $420 to rent chairs, $600 for horse-drawn wagon rides, as well as the nixing of refreshments and public works overtime costs.

"Every councilman was very much for keeping it at the park," said Recreation Coordinator Traci Farris.