Tot lot fence is unneeded, CA is told

Criticism greets report

discussion set tomorrow


A report commissioned by the Columbia Association concludes that "there is no compelling need to place a fence" around the playground at Lake Elkhorn.

The six-page report from the National Program for Playground Safety, which the Columbia Association board is scheduled to discuss tomorrow night, determined that because the playground is 160 feet from the lake and a pathway surrounds it, a fence is not necessary.

The board authorized the association to spend up to $20,000 to hire a consultant after a toddler who had been playing at the tot lot drowned in the lake in September.

The report deals with the issue of the fence in only one paragraph, leading Barbara Russell, a member of the Columbia Association board, to label it "ridiculous." She pointed out that the report focuses primarily on the playground equipment.

"The report is practically useless from the point of view of what we wanted," Russell said. "It's really not responsive to the problem at all, as far as I'm concerned."

CA board Chairman Joshua Feldmark said while the report addressed to the necessity of the fence, the issue should be whether a fence would help parents supervise their children.

"It doesn't need to be necessary for it to be a good idea, for it to be helpful," he said.

Parents started lobbying the association to build a fence around the tot lot -- which is bordered by Cradlerock Way, trees and a slope that heads down to the wooden dock -- after Alex Ferrera, a 23-month-old who lived in Laurel, drowned Sept. 2 in the lake. According to police, the toddler was with a licensed in-home day care provider who called 911 to report a lost child.

Jennifer Terrasa, a Kings Contrivance parent who has headed the effort to get a fence built around the tot lot, said she is disappointed with the report's findings and does not think it addresses parents' concerns.

"There's nothing in there about how [the consultant] watched parents and kids," Terrasa said.

Terrasa, who has three children, ages 2, 4 and 6, said she does not take them to the Lake Elkhorn tot lot because it is too difficult for her to supervise them. She said she has received "many countless" e-mail messages from parents who share her concerns, and she does not understand why the Columbia Association does not take the parents' word for it that it is a dangerous playground without a fence.

"We ask [parents] to supervise their children," Terrasa said. "We ought to help them do that."

Russell said that after watching her 6-year-old grandson, Chaz, and other children at the tot lot, she believes a fence is needed to keep the children from going into the street or the lake.

"It doesn't have to be a high fence, I think a 4-foot fence would be adequate," she said. "And I think it can be done in an aesthetic, inoffensive way."

The CA board is scheduled to meet at association headquarters, 10221 Wincopin Circle, starting at 7:30 p.m.

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