BRENTWOOD -- Many Brentwood students and their parents must stick to using American Avenue now that a nearby landowner has lowered the boom on kids taking a shortcut through his property.
Heritage High and Adams Middle schools notified families last week that the owner of a large swath of undeveloped land opposite the two American Avenue campuses no longer would be tolerating trespassers.
Students for years have walked to and from classes on an unpaved trail that runs from American Avenue to the Deer Ridge subdivision on Mountain View Drive, which many parents have used as a staging area rather than battle gridlock in front of the two schools on the dead-end street.
But last week heavy farming equipment blocked pedestrian access on one side of the path and a Brentwood police officer on the other, and schools were notified that law enforcement would be cracking down on those who set foot on the property.
"I think he's reached the end of his rope. He's basically had enough," city Traffic Manager Steve Kersevan said of the owner, noting that people repeatedly have damaged his fencing and removed No Trespassing signs he posted.
Two police officers have been at the trailheads since Friday warning pedestrians to stay clear, and next week they'll start issuing citations, said Lt. Doug Silva.
Students now either must take Balfour Road when walking between Mountain View Drive and American Avenue -- a route that's nearly three times
"I don't think it's fair. It's more, like, time inconvenient," said 11-year-old Lauren Canada on Monday as the seventh-grader made the trek back to her home in the Deer Ridge development the long way.
But her friend Julianna Brown who, like Lauren, routinely cut through the open space, understood the need for stricter measures.
"If I were the owner I'd probably say no," she said, noting that she's seen littering on the property and fences flattened by bicycles.
Heritage High School parent Marie Lussier saw so many students taking the direct route that she initially assumed the land owner didn't mind, but she and her daughter realized that wasn't the case last week when they noticed prominent signs warning people to keep out.
Given the heat -- the temperature gauge on Lussier's dashboard registered 90 degrees Monday afternoon -- her daughter's "freakishly heavy" backpack, and the fact that their Deer Ridge home is in the part of the subdivision farthest from Heritage High, she said from now on she'll have to make a daily drive to school.
"It's annoying," Lussier said.
If there's any consolation, it's that the city soon will be offering some relief to motorists caught in the twice-a-day crunch on American Avenue, where traffic can't flow as freely because the street is a dead end.
Plans to replace a three-way stop sign with a traffic light at the entrance to Heritage High School's student parking lot will materialize in October, if not sooner, Kersevan said.
The goal is to alleviate the backups caused by heavy volumes of traffic entering American Avenue from two directions and then having to stop, one by one, at the sign, he said.
But Kersevan isn't promising that the improvement will eliminate the bottleneck.
"Ultimately, I don't know if I have a solution for getting people in and out of school quickly," he said. "There's going to be a 20-minute period of chaos in the morning and a 20-minute period of chaos in the afternoon. That's a given."
Contact Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Follow her at Twitter.com/RowenaCoetsee.