Two nine-year-old girls prompted the City of Penticton to issue a work order after reporting the poor state of their favourite alley to play on.
One of the favourite pastimes of Patience Wittenberg and Ava Gerard, who live near the corner of Oakville Street and Fairway Avenue, is to rollerblade and ride their scooters on the stretch of alleyway behind where they live – but the potency of potholes and cracks had made it unpleasant and dangerous to ride on. They initially just wanted to find a smoother surface.
“The girls kept coming in and asking if they can go on the main road by our place to rollerblade and scooter,” said Craig Wittenberg their guardian. “They just kept wiping out in the alley.”
But he wasn’t comfortable with letting them ride on the main road because of safety issues.
“The road’s wide enough for the girls to play on, there’s just a lot of young people that live on those five blocks and they drive fast up and down that road. No one stops, they just whip around the corner.”
That’s caused social challenges for some of the kids on the street, as some are allowed to play on the street and others can only play on the alley.
To address their problem, Wittenberg suggested the girls write a letter to the city. He said it was just an oft-hand comment, but the two girls immediately went inside to begin writing. They asked Wittenberg what they should write and he told them simply to explain their problem using their own words.
“I was just wondering if you and/or the city could pave my alley,” reads the letter from Patience. “My cousin Ava and I like to scooter/rollerblade. Because of the destruction in our alley we can’t have a fun, safe time. Also lots of kids in the neighbourhood like to use the alley. There are holes, cracks and rocks. I hate to see people getting hurt. So we have to go on a busy road where it’s dangerous. So please pave or fix our alley.”
“We can’t scooter/rollerblade because of that. We have to play on the road and that is dangerous. Would you please fix the alley for us all?” Ava wrote, in addition to a diagram of the alley she drew.
Wittenberg stamped and mailed the letters, and they made their way to the city’s public works manager Len Robson.
Within a week, a piece of mail arrived at the Wittenberg residence for Ava and Patience.
“They were excited when the mail came through the door addressed to them,” Wittenberg said.
“Firstly let me thank you so much for caring enough about your community to bring the poor condition of the alley, which services your parent’s property to my attention,” Robson said in the letter. “Upon receiving your letter, I personally inspected the alley and agree it does require some maintenance to improve the safety for motor vehicles, pedestrians and kids playing.”
Wittenberg was impressed by the personal nature of the letter.
“It was pretty cool – the kids were really excited about it. And he didn’t just send a standard letter.”
Robson explained that the city takes care of 191 kilometres of roadway and 45 kilometres of alleyway. He said many of those surfaces are in even worse shape then their alley, and the city’s entire road replacement budget for 2015 has been earmarked to fix them.
“However, I have asked our crews to provide some road patching in your alley to repair the bumps and potholes. In addition our roadway sweeper machine will pass through the lane to pick up the rocks, dirt and debris that are making this area dangerous for you.”
Robson saw that the entire alley was paved on Tuesday, June 23.
“The city’s been pretty awesome most of the time,” Wittenberg said. “I’m one of those rare people who don’t have any complaints about what’s going on.”