Faulty pipes leave park lovers high and dry

WATCHDOG

June 26, 2007

THE PROBLEM -- A park located just north of the city line has not had running water for at least two years.

THE BACKSTORY -- Robert E. Lee Memorial Park off Falls Road in Baltimore County boasts 450 acres of wilderness, with dozens of hiking and jogging trails. An Internet site devoted to dog owners rated it the best park in the Baltimore area to walk your canine. Prime spots are around Lake Roland, a former city reservoir.

But don't try to use the bathrooms. Or take a drink of water from the fountain.

The water has been shut down for about two years, said Kia McLeod, a spokeswoman for Baltimore's Department of Recreation and Parks. The park is one of 13 owned by the city and located in suburban counties.

McLeod confirmed the complaint by Watchdog reader and park lover Elana Rock. Rock said she has repeatedly called parks and public works officials only to get shuffled from one agency to the other, each with a different story. At one point, she said, an official denied that the city owned the park.

Last week, Rock said she returned to the park "for the first time this summer and I was not at all surprised to see that nothing has been done."

McLeod said the park's main water pipes broke about two years ago and attempts to make repairs only uncovered new problems. When crews tried to run a new copper line under a bridge, they discovered more leaks by a main entrance road, and digging that up "would have caused a major disruption to park traffic and access to the adjacent residents' homes."

The spokeswoman said that the water project got linked to a plan to renovate a bridge leading into the park, and when that got delayed, so did fixing the leak. "Now that the community has addressed the need, we will revisit our options and take action as quickly as possible," McLeod promised.

Work began on Friday. Crews inspected the park and McLeod said the water should be restored by the end of the week. She said the restrooms also need to be repainted.

WHO CAN FIX THIS -- Christopher Carroll, chief of parks: 410-396-7931. City residents can also call 311 to report problems.

UPDATE

It's been two weeks since Watchdog last addressed the 5-foot gap in the fence along CSX tracks at the end of Charles Street in South Baltimore.

That was after CSX spokesman Robert Sullivan said that a solution might be a ways off. He said the fence has been fixed before, only to be torn down again, and that the company is searching for a permanent solution.

Shannon Sullivan, the vice president of the Southern District Police Community Relations Council, took a walk yesterday and reported that the fence issue has worsened since the problem was first reported April 17.

"Now there is an abandoned bike near it," Sullivan said. "There's some more trash. It can be very frustrating, considering we first noticed this issue almost a year ago. It shouldn't be this difficult."

Watchdog tried to contact Sullivan yesterday, but his office said he was not in.

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