Unless you’re playing the Webb Park Golf Course or you’re a northbound motorist stopped to let golfers cross College Drive, you’ll never notice the “Ernie’s Crossing” sign. But it brings smiles to the golfers.
“I think it’s very neat,” said Libby Smith, of the Westdale Ladies Golf Association.
The sign is in tribute to Ernie Gremillion, 78, who proved that you can fight city hall — specifically, the Department of Public Works.
The public golf course is on both sides of the street, and for years a crossing light has been there to allow golfers to move safely from the second green to the third tee, and from the seventh green to the eighth tee. But it tested their patience.
The light, Gremillion learned, was synched with the timers for traffic signals on either side of it, where College Drive intersects with Woodside and South Foster drives. After pressing a button to activate the crossing light, the wait might be 10 seconds, or it might be 3½ minutes, he said. It was more likely the latter.
“It was just terribly annoying,” said Gremillion, a golfer who lives in the area.
So much so that many golfers, if they saw no traffic, would scoot across, hoping a northbound car wasn’t speeding unseen around the curve. Not everyone was so bold, and Webb Park employees were forbidden from doing so, he said.
“It was bad for the drivers, too, because you’d push the button, and then you’d cross and you’d go hit your ball and then all these cars would stop, thinking, ‘Why do we have to stop? There’s nobody here,’” Gremillion said. “It was obviously a real useless situation.”
One that Gremillion decided to tackle. He called Ingolf Partenheimer, the parish’s chief traffic engineer, but was told the light needed to remain coordinated with the other lights. He called again to argue his case and got the same answer. He kept calling. A retired criminal investigator for the U.S. Treasury Department, Gremillion is nothing if not persistent.
“When I knew I had the facts on my side, I never gave up, and I usually won,” Gremillion said. “I didn’t give up, and I finally convinced him. I said, ‘Why don’t you do a study on it?’ They did a study, and about three months later, I called him and he said, ‘The traffic engineers said you’re right. It’s a no-win situation for the golfers and the drivers.’”
The crossing signal was changed on Feb. 18, said traffic engineer Sarah Paul Edel, and the traffic office has received no complaints. Certainly, there were none at Webb Park.
“One day when he happened to be there when our ladies group was there, I acknowledged to them, ‘This is the guy that’s responsible for getting that light to work,’” Smith said. “We were very appreciative of it.”
Gremillion’s wife, Margaret, had a sign made, and now it adorns the chain-link fence behind the seventh green, a short chip shot from the crossing itself.