City erected six-foot fence to protect grass

Fence runs down the West 39th Street median in Tuscany-Canterbury

May 27, 2012|By Steve Kilar, The Baltimore Sun

The Baltimore Department of Transportation has a message for the residents of Tuscany-Canterbury: Do not walk on our grass.

But instead of little signs, the transportation department conveys that message with a six-foot, spike-topped fence. The barrier runs down the middle of the newly seeded median it is protecting.

"They say it's to protect the grass, but a light layer of hay would have remedied that," said Sandra Snow, who lives and works in the neighborhood. "A nice path, a walkway, a low hedge — there are so many things that could have been done."

The fence, which appeared in mid-April and bisects West 39th Street between West University Parkway and Canterbury Road, has caused a stir among neighbors. Many residents are boggled by the logic of using a tall, sprawling fence to protect grass and are disturbed by its look, which they call unsightly and institutional.

"When it went up, I was sort of stuck between a sort of shock and anger," said neighbor Fred Chalfant, who wonders why the city didn't just put up a plastic fence to keep people off the grass while it was taking root. "To me, it's the antithesis of open space."

"This fence apparition has been met with angry opposition," Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke said in a letter last week to the transportation department. "I share their distaste for the fence and had no idea that its installation was in the works."

The fence should be removed immediately, Clarke wrote.

"In my opinion, it's out of scale with the neighborhood," she said by phone Friday. Plus, it will not prevent grass from being killed, she said, because delivery and utility trucks pulling up onto the median are the main cause of trampled turf.

Transportation officials, in a written response Thursday, did not agree to dismantle the fence right away but seem open to working with the community to find another solution. A community meeting with the city's transportation director, Khalil Zaied, has been arranged for Tuesday.

"The decision about whether or not to remove that fence rests with the Director of Transportation," said Clarke, who organized and will chair the meeting, which is set for 6:30 p.m. at the First English Lutheran Church. "I just needed a chance for neighbors to … hear and be heard."

The entire budget for the median work, which includes the fence, seeding and aeration of the soil, was $20,000, according to department's reply letter. Clarke was not told the cost of the fence alone, she said.

Transportation department officials did not respond to requests for comment Friday.

The Tuscany-Canterbury Neighborhood Association plans further landscaping of the median using its own funds, Clarke said. Susan W. Talbott, the association president, did not respond to requests for comment Friday.

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