In city, Balto. Co., plowing isn't down their alley

Lanes are responsibility of residents, officials say

The Snowstorm of 2003

February 22, 2003|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

Wayne Wipfield is the emancipator of Ridge Avenue and a local hero of sorts.

Using his snowblower, the 57-year-old Towson man cleared the alley behind dozens of neighbors' houses, a narrow right of way where they park cars and store trash cans - providing an unexpected path to freedom for those who otherwise would have been snowbound.

"It was a real lifesaver," said Joshua Poole, 24, who lives down the street and benefited from Wipfield's efforts. "It would have taken us six hours. We couldn't thank him enough."

Despite repeated calls for snow removal in alleys, officials in Baltimore City and Baltimore County made it clear yesterday that the lanes won't be on their plowing routes.

"It's private property," said Adrienne D. Barnes, spokeswoman for the city Office of Transportation.

Even though garbage trucks use the alleys to collect trash and recyclables, neither the city nor Baltimore County will try to plow them.

"They are the responsibility of the abutting property owners," said David Fidler, a Baltimore County public works spokesman. "Plowing them often creates more problems than it solves because of how narrow alleys are."

Although some residents were dismayed by the no-plow policies, Shirley Lane, who has lived in Rodgers Forge for nearly 40 years, said yesterday she understands.

"There are pros and cons," she said. "With all this snow, where are they going to put it? It would end up getting piled up against everyone's fences. We have to be tolerant. It's all going to go away eventually."

After past storms, county public works crews have occasionally cleared the ends of alleys for residents, but because of the scale of this week's cleanup, that has not been possible, Fidler said.

In the city, road crews have had a hard enough time plowing the 2,000 miles of streets.

In Charles Village yesterday, Colleen Cotton and her neighbors on St. Paul Street, near 31st Street, knew that if they wanted to get their cars out, they'd have to shovel the alley themselves.

"Everyone worked really hard," said Cotton, a 28-year-old Maryvale Preparatory School teacher. "We just finished yesterday. If we hadn't, there would be no place to park. People have been circling for hours at night to find a spot, and some have to park 10 blocks away from their houses."

Wipfield said he was happy to be able to help his neighbors. "I know what it's like to be the guy who doesn't have the snowblower," he said.

Although Wipfield ended up spending nearly three days pushing the blower around the alley and sidewalks, he didn't seem to mind. "I like being outside," he said. "I really had a great time."

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