Elderly protesters score brief victory over loss of sidewalk Towson path to close again when construction begins


Several elderly Towson residents -- many of them disabled -- took their canes, walkers and oxygen tanks to the street yesterday in a short-lived protest over sidewalk access that Baltimore County police worked to resolve.

The seniors, carrying pink and yellow signs with the message "Let My People Walk," hobbled along the 300 block of East Joppa Road on a torrid morning to express their dissatisfaction about a sidewalk that was closed because of construction.

"They denied us access," said Robert Thomas, 61, who, along with other protesters, lives in the nearby TABCO Towers apartment complex. "We're tired of it."

The walkway, blocked with a chain-link fence, forces the seniors to walk either on an uneven grassy path or in the road to cross busy, four-lane Joppa Road to get to destinations in the heart of Towson, they said.

"We've put up with the mess and the noise, but when they took the sidewalk away, we can't get around," said Sally Burger, 86.

The walkway is off-limits while Storage USA builds a seven-story facility that eventually will have brick sidewalks, planters and benches. A construction trailer now sits there.

After the dozen seniors began walking in a traffic lane yesterday, county police officers arrived to protect the group with patrol cars with flashing lights. Sgt. John Ensor approached construction superintendent Robert Osborne to seek a possible resolution to the standoff.

Osborne, who said he has county-approved building permits for the work, agreed to open the sidewalk temporarily, probably as soon as today. He explained it would have to be closed again in about a month for utility work that could take six to eight weeks.

"I left it open as long as I could," Osborne said. "I know it's a high elderly area, and they use it a lot."

After learning of the brief victory prompted by their 35-minute protest, the hot marchers, clutching bottles of cool water, returned to their apartments.

"I think it's great," said Jesse Cunningham, 75, who relies on a motorized scooter because of arthritis. "Now we have the same rights as the Port-A-Potty on the sidewalk."

Pub Date: 6/24/98

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