Railroad weeds a growing irritation for Plainfield homeowner

After nearly year of calls, resident still waits for action, she says

What's your problem, Patty Canavan

Patty Canavan at her home in Plainfield, on June 12. (Corey R. Minkanic / Chicago Tribune / June 12, 2014)

In summers past, Patty Canavan's son would trim the weeds that rise freely along the railroad tracks behind her Plainfield house.

Her son is now grown and has moved away — and there are stalks that tower more than 10 feet tall, dwarfing her backyard privacy fence and threatening to topple it.

Critters hide in the thickets, which also serve as a dumping ground for trash.

"Each summer, it gets worse and worse," Canavan said. "Everything goes dormant in the winter, then in the spring, everything starts to grow. This year, it's bigger than ever."

Canavan said she began calling Canadian National Railway last July, asking the company to maintain its property.

In the months that followed, Canavan called CN six more times, she said, making the same request on each call.

"Each time (I) have been told the issue will be reported," she said.

But nothing happened.

During her last call on May 29, Canavan was again promised a response, she said. None came, so she emailed "What's Your Problem?"

"I hire a lawn service to do the rest of my lawn, but they don't go back there," she said.

Canavan said she simply wanted CN to respond and take her requests seriously. If the railroad company could cut down the weeds, she said she'd maintain the area going forward.

Her biggest concern is the weeds knocking down her fence.

"If my fence falls into my yard, you know who's going to incur that expense? Me," she said. "I just want to be heard."

The Problem Solver called CN spokesman Patrick Waldron and forwarded Canavan's email.

The next day, two CN representatives visited Canavan's house and assessed the situation.

Waldron said in an email that CN had gotten Canavan's complaint previously through the company's general public inquiry line and had been trying to reach her.

Referring to the visit the day after the Problem Solver's call, Waldron said, "A representative of CN's engineering department met with the homeowner this week at the property to discuss her concerns and make plans for appropriate vegetation control along the railroad right of way."

Waldron did not say what measures CN would take, or when.

Canavan was cautiously optimistic.

"I'm thrilled. At least I've had some dialogue and been able to express to them what my concerns are," she said. "Hopefully, they'll come out and get all that cut down."

The Problem Solver will provide updates as warranted.

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