November 7, 2002

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Ecology Institute erects fence in Glen to stop vandalism

The metal chain-link fence that went up along the bikepath in the North Glen last week was meant to deter potential vandals who are trampling and trashing that area of the Glen. Glen Helen Ecology Institute Executive Director Bob Whyte said he hopes the fence will temporarily reduce the abuse of the Glen’s property and spark a dialogue among local residents about long-term solutions to promote the Glen’s welfare.

“It’s too bad it seems only drastic measures will get people’s attention,” Whyte said. “I want to get the community involved in talking about this because it’s just one of the issues of concern.”

The Greene County Sheriff’s Department contacted the Glen Ecology Institute recently about an increase in car break-ins, particularly in the Clifton Gorge and Glen Helen parking lots on State Route 343. So far this year 16 theft cases from those parking lots have been reported, said Major Harden of the Sheriff’s office. The department handles an average of 20 theft cases in that area a year, he said. The thefts most often occur during the holidays, Harden said.

As a crime prevention measure, the Ecology Institute will now close the Glen Helen parking lot on State Route 343 at 4:30 p.m.

“I want to stress that we’re not trying to minimize visitors or keep people out of the Glen, but we want to ensure that the people who come can have a safe visit,” Whyte said.

This includes visitors who use the area near the Caboose Bike & Skate, where local youth have been hanging out for years and where the fence was erected.

Whyte said he is concerned about that part of the North Glen because visitors who go there leave liquor bottles, cigarette butts, and trash behind. He has also noticed evidence of people starting fires and bludgeoning trees throughout the area. The metal fence is intended to reduce traffic to that part of the Glen.

“If they at least were respectful of the land we wouldn’t care that they hang out there,” Whyte said. “But enough is enough. The fence is just a step to limit Glen access points and help us monitor the Glen better.”

The number of people who visit the Glen is not the problem, Whyte said, it’s the way the property is used. Visitors don’t always follow the regulations that are set up to protect the Glen, he said. Some people continue to let their dogs off their leashes or ride horses in the South Glen, defying signs and explicit instructions prohibiting such activities.

“I love that people love the Glen, but there is a sense that the community owns it and therefore that community members don’t have to follow the rules,” Whyte said.

He encourages people who use the Glen to work with him to decide what is best for the nature preserve and its visitors.

Whyte said the response to the new fence has been moderate and that more people seem to support the effort than object to it. “I’ve gotten surprisingly little response,” he said.

But he said he hopes to work with local residents to make the best of the situation. The Ecology Institute plans to organize a community effort in the spring to add greenery along the fence to make it more aesthetically pleasing.

—Lauren Heaton