Three community associations in southwest Baltimore County have joined in asking county officials to improve safety at Hillcrest Park in Lansdowne.
The request comes after a 13-year-old boy drowned last month after falling through the ice on the lake behind Lansdowne High School.
The community groups sent a letter to Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, 1st District Councilman Tom Quirk and a number of public officials, urging them to improve safety at the lake without comprising the community's access to enjoying recreational activities there.
In the letter, the associations representing Lansdowne, Riverview and Baltimore Highlands expressed sympathy to the family of Kyron Aikens, the boy who died.
The boy was among four who fell through ice in the lake and were rescued by firefighters and emergency response teams.
Kyron's family said they want to see a fence built around the lake to prevent future accidents.
"A fence could help," said Jesus Cleckley, 29, Kyron's cousin, "When the incident happened people came up and said it wasn't the first time someone fell into the lake."
But the three communities don't want to see a fence around the lake.
"All three community associations are opposed to a fence being put around the lake," said Brian Bailey, a board member of the Lansdowne Improvement Association. "We feel the fence will deter people from enjoying the scenery."
Moses Rodriguez, president of the Baltimore Highlands Community Association, said at the group's monthly meeting on Feb. 4, many members voiced opposition to adding a fence to the lake.
"Hillcrest has been a beautiful park for many years," said Rodriguez, who has served as president of the association for 12 years. "I think it would cause more problems than it would help."
Rodriguez said a fence could also possibly impede a rescue operation, should someone fall through ice on the lake again.
"The response time would be a lot slower," said Cheryl Bush, president of the Riverview Community Association.
Bailey said adding a fence to the property, which is used for fishing, canoeing and for educational activities at Lansdowne High, would be a "shortsighted response to this shocking tragedy."
"As tragic as this whole situation is, we think this is an opportunity for the community and local government to discuss the park and its amenities," Bailey said. "We want the county to invest money in making the lake more of a destination."
For example, at Centennial Park in Ellicott City, you can walk on trails and enjoy the lake and its scenery, Bailey said.
"Our two community cleanups are not enough to keep it clean," Bailey said. "We really believe the park needs to be kept up, so people will want to use it."
The letter lists a number of ways for the county to improve safety at the park including "clear and comprehensive" signage, improved safety education at public schools, regular maintenance and additional staffing to supervise the park grounds.
Rodriguez said the two current signs at the lake posted to deter swimming and skating, are covered with graffiti and hard to read.
"Some new signs ought to be put up," Rodriguez said.
However, Cleckley said he doesn't believe signs are enough.
"I think signs do help but sometimes when you have kids walking around in the neighborhood they won't pay attention to the signs," Cleckley said.
Quirk said that he understands the community's concerns, but is "deferring to the county administration and the county's Department of Recreation and Parks for careful review and recommendation."
In response to the letter, county spokeswoman Ellen Kobler wrote in an email, "We appreciate the community's input and the Director of the Department of Recreation and Parks [Barry Williams] will consider this as part of his overall review."
Asked if Williams supports adding fencing to the lake, Kobler wrote," He's working on an overall review of the situation, so we're not in the position to respond to any specifics yet."