A metal fence topped with barbed wire has kept Carrboro residents from using a path for four years — but if some officials and activists have their way, that barrier will soon come down.
Town officials are questioning whether a fence constructed by the Estes Park apartment complex can legally block a right of way.
The fence, constructed in 2008 to secure the apartment complex, separates it from the train tracks and surrounding woods.
Estes Park Manager Natasha Johnson said the fence was built to reduce crime in the complex.
But Carrboro police crime statistics for the apartments indicate that there hasn’t been a significant reduction in burglary, larceny or motor vehicle theft since 2008.
Johnson said the fence also keeps children from playing on the adjacent train tracks, which was a concern for many residents.
But it has caused problems for residents who bike and walk.
A padlocked gate along the east side of the neighborhood blocks a path that connected the Estes Park and Village West developments to downtown Carrboro and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Ruby Sinreich, a resident who has lived less than half a mile away from Estes Park in Village West since 2006, used the right of way to get to Weaver Street Market in downtown Carrboro.
“I wanted to live where I can walk to the grocery store,” Sinreich said.
She said she can’t do so safely if she can’t take the path, because the road has a narrow shoulder.
Patrick Day, who commutes to work and bikes for sport, said he is used to traffic but those who aren’t comfortable riding in it would benefit from the path.
The right of way will cause further inconvenience when a planned path between UNC’s main campus and Carolina North is constructed, said Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton.
He said the gate, which blocks what he says is a public space, would block access to the path for Estes Park residents.
But the apartment complex maintains that the right of way isn’t documented as public.
Documentation was not common when the path was created, which was at least 70 years ago according to aerial photographs.
Chilton said much of East Franklin Street is also technically not a documented public right of way — but it’s used as one.
Though he defends public use of the path, he is hesitant about taking Estes Park to court over the matter due to potential costs of $10,000 to $20,000.
Chilton said if the gate were opened it would connect many more neighborhoods, especially those that are lower income.
He said residents who want the gate open and Estes Park management have discussed a compromise to allow the gate to be opened during the day, but the management cannot guarantee they will be able to do this.
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