“The lack of planning for parking, no signage to direct traffic and overworked public officials made this day out to be a lot worse than it needed to be,” said Sams, who finally was able to pick up his daughter 30 minutes later, yet not cheerfully.

Sams was not alone.  Despite warnings to the public ahead of time from the Fluvanna Sheriff’s Office, many attendees of Saturday’s graduation (May 25) sat in traffic upwards of an hour on Rt. 53 to access the field at Pleasant Grove that was designated for overflow parking.

“The unfortunate issue of the traffic delays was a simple problem of too many cars trying to get to the same point, at the same time, on a two lane country road,” said Lieutenant David Wells with the Fluvanna County Sherriff’s Department.  “The infrastructure simply was not designed to handle that volume of traffic.  At the old school we had essentially three main roads of entry/exit and multiple parking locations. At the new location, we just have one.”

According to Wells, between 800 and 900 vehicles were parked in the hour before graduation.  The Virginia State Police came to help support local law enforcement with directing traffic.  However, the Virginia Department of Transportation was not able to provide electronic signage due to the signs been used elsewhere.

Although the high school provided four shuttle buses from Pleasant Grove to the High School, the buses were often stuck in traffic as well.  A large percentage of people chose to walk the nearly one-mile-long, gravel path linking the two locations.  This proved difficult for women dressed in their Sunday best, a handful of whom held their high heels in their hands as they daintily tiptoed around the sharpest rocks.

With graduation still visible in the rear view mirror, discussions about how to change things for next year have not begun yet.

“This is a conversation we will have this summer,” said High School Principal James Barlow.

But if you’re planning to have a graduate next year, heed some good advice.  Leave early and wear comfortable shoes.

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