By JASON ECK
A new sign at the northern entrance to Sonora has some nearby neighbors worried about their children's safety.
The sign, which reads "Northgate Park" in bold, white letters and also has the municipal seal on it, was put up about two weeks ago in a landscaped area the city developed between Highway 49 and Northcam Plaza, where the Salvation Army, an auto service center, car wash and service station do business.
At the end of her 2002 term as mayor, Sonora Councilwoman Liz Bass suggested the name as a way to let citizens and visitors know that the city is committed to beautification. She also envisioned the area as a northern entrance or gateway to the city.
But the sign has caused an unexpected problem.
"The day the sign went up, we had a car stop us asking us where the park is," said Rachael Champe, who lives on Pesce Way west of Northcam Plaza. "They see the sign and assume there's a park back here. We have a lot of tourists going up and down (Highway) 49."
Only a couple of people have actually stopped Champe and asked for directions to the "park," but she said traffic has increased on her cul-de-sac, and she sees drivers acting as if they are looking for a park.
Champe and her husband have two children, Ethan, 2, and Hunter, 4. They are among four families on Pesce Way. Four more families live on Steffen Lane, off Pesce Way. Champe said the families combined have about 15 children younger than 10 who play in the area.
"We already have a lot of traffic back here," she said, adding that a change in wording to "business park" might resolve the problem of people looking for a nonexistent park.
"I haven't heard a thing," Bass said when told of the concerns. "I regret that. It wasn't the intent at all."
But she understands the neighbors' worry. "If anyone up there has an idea, I'm open to suggestions," Bass said.