Hadley officials take steps to curb flea market traffic jams

  • Two special detail officers control the flow of traffic at the entrance/exit of the Olde Hadley Flea Market on Lawrence Plain Road (Rt. 47) in Hadley on Sunday, July 1, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Shoppers browse at the Olde Hadley Flea Market on Lawrence Plain Road (Route 47) in Hadley on Sunday. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • A special detail officer motions to traffic exiting from the Olde Hadley Flea Market onto Lawrence Plain Road (Rt. 47) in Hadley on Sunday, July 1, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • The Olde Hadley Flea Market on Lawrence Plain Road (Rt. 47) in Hadley, on Sunday, July 1, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Shoppers browse at the Olde Hadley Flea Market on Lawrence Plain Road (Rt. 47) in Hadley on Sunday, July 1, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 7/4/2018 11:12:41 AM

HADLEY — With dozens of vendors and hundreds of customers, the Olde Hadley Flea Market on Lawrence Plain Road has been a Sunday mainstay in town for 38 years.

But its popularity as a destination for people seeking inexpensive used items, household goods, antiques and collectibles periodically creates traffic congestion that makes it difficult for those who live nearby to leave their driveways or exit side streets. The flea market runs in the spring, summer and fall.

Living less than half a mile away from the action, Andrew Loebel of Chmura Road experienced this first hand in early June, when he got stuck in a long line of traffic while trying to return to his home. He inched along with other vehicles, whose drivers were unable to park at the flea market and instead either turned around in residential driveways and yards on Route 47, or parked their vehicles along the road.

The traffic jam created a situation that Loebel said is akin to his being placed under house arrest.

“I steer clear of that area,” Loebel said. “There’s a probability that you’ll get stuck in it.”

Since that weekend, Loebel said he has left his home on Sunday mornings and not returned until the afternoon out of fear that the situation will repeat itself.

The problems have drawn renewed scrutiny by Hadley Police, whose detail officers on scene, paid by the flea market operators, saw what developed along Lawrence Plain and Chmura roads.

Sgt. Mitchell Kuc told the Select Board at a recent meeting that changes were implemented after the police department was inundated with complaints on the first weekend in June.

The latest changes include working with property owner and flea market founder Raymond Szala to pay for a third detail officer, joining an officer who has been placing no-parking signs along the road and directing traffic, and another inside the flea market who assists with getting vehicles parked as quickly as possible.

“This third officer is assigned to a cruiser and ensures that those attending the flea market are not parking illegally,” Kuc said. “That officer also responds to these types of complaints as opposed to taking an on-duty officer away from patrol.

Kuc said June 3 was the first nice weekend since the market opened in early spring. A report from patrol officer Thomas Chabot, who was with patrol officer Daniel Warner, explains the situation at the scene:

“Cars would cycle in and out trying to get a place to park, after only minutes cars began to self park on the roadside on private property,” Chabot wrote. “This created a traffic hazard and bottle necked the road, making it impossible for cars to pull over in the event of an emergency vehicle needing to get through.”

In previous years, police have taken other steps, Kuc said, including moving vendors from the north side of the flea market to create more parking, changing the internal traffic pattern so vehicles can’t loop out and back onto Route 47 and pushing cars toward the overflow parking lot, where spots are likely available.

Police also have recommended the flea market’s organizers do a better job of directing traffic on the property and improve coordination with vendors.

Police Chief Michael Mason said if these improvements do not work, he will have to send patrol officers to the scene, though doing so means other matters in town would not be handled.

The flea market also is no longer allowed to remain open with its gate closed, according to police. Kuc said when this happens, people park illegally or drive around town streets until the gates reopen.

Select Board Chairwoman Joyce Chunglo said she is pleased with the town’s response, noting that the board has been concerned about vehicles backing up and parking along Route 47, which can leave little room for pubic safety vehicles to get through.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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