They passed the petitions and wrote the letters and made the phone calls. But residents of a small community in north Severna Park found their efforts to change the county's mind about building a new sidewalk futile.
Now there's nothing left for Cape Arthur residents to do but fume -- and watch the county pull up the plants in their yards to make way for a sidewalk they don't want.
"Apparently, we exhausted all the appeals, such as they are around here," said resident David Mauriello. "Basically, the county has completely ignored the will of our community, because they ignored the vote we took."
At a Nov. 18 North Cape Arthur Association meeting attended by 30 homeowners, 22 opposed a 200-foot-long sidewalk that the county plans to build along Arundel Beach Road.
The associationstated in a press release that the sidewalk project "has been rejected twice since it was first proposed several years ago, and that (traffic controllers) at the Public Works Department . . . are doing (Councilwoman Diane R.) Evan's bid."
Said Mauriello: "They had made uptheir minds and weren't going to listen to any input from the community. Our letter from the community association went to Evans and the county, and we've heard from neither."
However, they did hear froma county horticulturist who arrived in the community this week to start digging up plants to make way for the sidewalk.
Said Reuben Johnson, another resident unhappy about the sidewalk, "Even the landscaper said this is the dumbest damn thing he ever heard of. They're going to dig up my fruit trees, apricot and nectarines. They have the most beautiful blooms."
The sidewalk argument revolves around the safety of children who walk from the playground of the community elementary school to their homes along Arundel Beach Road.
North Cape Arthur residents who live along Arundel Beach Road and don't want theiryards affected opposed the county's solution as insufficient. The sidewalk the county plans to build would extend from the play ground ofthe Folger-McKinsey Elementary School to Derussey Drive, leaving most of the pedestrians without a sidewalk, say those who oppose it.
"People are upset because they feel the real safety issues have not been addressed," said Mauriello. "When this project is complete, two-thirds of the kids walking along Arundel Beach Road will still be walking."
In addition, North Cape Arthur residents have objected that the sidewalk helps only citizens of Fair Oaks, a high-income community.
Said Johnson: "This is a sidewalk for the privileged few. About15 kids are going to benefit. The county has totally ignored everything we've tried to tell them."
Another North Cape Arthur resident,Fred Hutzley of Whitehurst, said the real problem is the school system's rule that children who live within a mile of the school cannot ride the bus.
"All the mothers drive a mile to pick their kids up because of this outrageous rule, creating traffic jam-ups and making the intersection especially dangerous for children walking," he said.
But Councilwoman Evans disagrees with the unhappy residents. She said she studied the sidewalk proposal for two months and concluded that the sidewalk was the best way to solve the traffic problem. She also said the county plans to extend the sidewalk along the length of Arundel Beach Road.
North Cape Arthur residents are unconvinced.
"We were told by people in the county's Community Service Office in October that if we objected, the sidewalk wouldn't be built," said Mauriello. "So much for promises."
Johnson said: "If they build thissidewalk, they have not heard the last of Reuben Johnson. This is going to become an issue right down to the ballot boxes at the next election. It's not fair, it's not right, it's not proper.
"If the people in elected office can't see any further than a 200-foot patch of sidewalk to help one big fat-cat neighborhood, then we don't need them."