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Options offered for foot bridge at Pony League

May 13, 2000|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

A foot bridge that connected Hagerstown's Funkhouser Park to an alley across Hamilton Run will probably not be replaced, but the sidewalk that is the alternate route to the park may be widened, said City Engineer Bruce Johnston.

Both were among the recommendations from a three-member panel assembled to decide whether the city should replace the bridge, which was removed in May 1999. Johnston said it is his intention to go along with the recommendations.

The recommendations were criticized by a resident who said she would continue to look for a way to get the bridge replaced.

The bridge was built by neighborhood residents about 50 years ago and had no railings. It was removed after Johnston received a petition from 19 people living near the bridge who said they supported its removal. The residents complained of loud noise, trash and some vandalism they said was caused by teenagers using or hanging around the bridge.

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Some other residents living near the park complained about the removal of the bridge, saying the alternate route along Jefferson Boulevard is too dangerous for children riding bicycles to the park, and that the complaints about activity around the bridge were exaggerated. Residents who want the bridge put back submitted a petition with more than 80 names on it to the city.

Funkhouser Park has long been the home of the Hagerstown Pony League, comprising players aged 13 and 14.

A public hearing was held on the matter earlier this month, and the panel submitted its recommendations to Johnston last week.

The panel was made up of Mark Boyer, a city attorney; William E. Moler, a member of the city Board of parks; and Michael V. McCollum, a member of the city Board of Traffic and Parking.

Don Riker, the leader of the effort to have the bridge removed, was happy to learn the bridge will probably not be rebuilt.

Riker said the bridge came onto the backyard of his Jefferson Street home, and was not a problem for most of the 50 years it was there. But in the past five years the bridge has attracted more and more troublesome teenagers, Riker said.

Marian Kinsey, one of the leaders of the effort to get the bridge put back, was unhappy with the recommendation. Kinsey said youths using the bridge and alley to get to the park "were not a big problem."

Kinsey said even with a wider passageway, the sidewalk is "not as safe as the bridge."

One argument for replacing the bridge was that, without it, those riding their bicycles to the park had to ride in the street.

Wider sidewalks are expected to make room for bicycles.

There is a city ordinance prohibiting riding bicycles on sidewalks. But that ordinance pertains only to the downtown area, and people are allowed to ride bicycles on the Jefferson Street sidewalks near Funkhouser Park, said City Police Chief Arthur Smith.

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