With an assemblage permit from the county in hand, the residents of Royal Oaks subdivision are planning their annual Halloween celebration.
The permit will allow Royal Oaks residents to control but not cut off traffic through the neighborhood from 6-10 p.m. on the night trick-or-treating takes place throughout the county.
Frank Rimsek, a Royal Oaks resident, asked Effingham County commissioners if the subdivision could control traffic into the neighborhood, which has only one entrance.
“I’ve done my best every year to make it better,” Rimsek said. “We don’t back traffic up on Highway 17. I have fine-tuned this into a pretty safe thing. We get a ton of people in there.”
Trick-or-treating on Halloween draws a large crowd into Royal Oaks, Rimsek told commissioners, and residents want to be able to enjoy the evening — but as safely as possible.
There are 99 houses in the neighborhood and of those, 82 have children or grandchildren living there. In 2002, there were more than 500 cars going through the neighborhood, Rimsek said.
“It was not a very safe environment,” he said.
Last year, they counted 428 cars and more than 600 people coming to Royal Oaks. The street lighting in the neighborhood is poor, Rimsek said, and there are no sidewalks. Plus, the volume of vehicles coming from Highways 17 and 30 and Blue Jay Road is large.
“We’re not trying to keep people out,” Rimsek said. “Just the cars.”
Rimsek said they have never stopped anyone from entering the neighborhood. They only ask that if they are going to visit someone there or if they are there for trick-or-treating. Those who are coming for trick-or-treating are asked to park in an adjacent open field.
Since 2003, Rimsek and other residents have manned the subdivision’s entrance and asked people not to drive through the neighborhood during trick-or-treating. Those who are handicapped or elderly are not asked to park their vehicles in the nearby field.
“We just ask them to please, please take it real slow,” he said.
The closest the neighborhood has come to a problem, Rimsek said, was four years ago when a group entered the subdivision on four-wheelers from the back of the neighborhood.
“We’ve never had any issues and God willing, we won’t,” he said.
Commissioners debated setting a precedent and about a neighborhood resident assuming responsibility for the law.
“I’m concerned about one neighbor taking it upon himself to be the neighborhood cop,” said Commissioner Steve Mason.
Rimsek, a former Army Criminal Investigations Command agent, said he doesn’t want to be perceived as a bully.
“I’m just looking to protect the children,” he said. “My whole life has been defending children.”
Commissioner Vera Jones commended Rimsek for his efforts in trying to ensure a safe neighborhood and trick-or-treating environment.
“But how do we do it for one subdivision if we don’t do it for the others?” she asked. “I didn’t want to formally, completely close the roads. I don’t have a problem with an assemblage permit.”
“Nobody is against this,” said Commissioner Bob Brantley. “We’re trying to figure out how to do this properly. Whatever we do, there’s going to be somebody to come along to want the same thing, and it may not fit for their situation.”
The subdivision had an off-duty deputy last year to help control traffic, and Rimsek said that worked well. He said they want to have the same deputy help this year.