The recent removal of foliage from around electrical lines near a popular athletic field sent a strong shock through members of the Somerton Youth Organization because of a dangerous condition that removal created.
Work by a tree-cutting company to eliminate plant growth interfering with those power lines at the Somerton Youth Organization facility exposed once shrouded working railroad tracks near one of the the facility’s baseball fields.
Even worse, from the organization’s perspective, the foliage removal exposed the steep slope dropping down to those tracks just yards from where young players congregate while using the baseball field.
This removal of trees and bushes caused a major issue for parents of children who play at the athletic facility and members of the volunteer youth organization, located on Southampton Road, that offers children in the area access to play in baseball, basketball and soccer leagues.
Somerton Youth Organization Athletic Director Fran Young said this issue erupted because of the dangerous slope now exposed to the children who play on that field. “Once they removed everything and removed all the shrubbery and trees, it left a pretty dangerous situation for the kids,” Young said. “There is a pretty steep drop behind the bench of our players.”
Young said he had no idea about the trees being cut down nor was he given any notice about the removal work. “I was in the middle of practice with one of the baseball teams and I noticed these trucks driving up to our field,” Young said. “I had to stop practice and go over. I had to hear the news from one of the workers.”
Young said he had to cut down the amount of practice time he spent at the fields while the workers were cutting down the trees because they were taking up the whole field. “It was a mess when they were working here,” Young said. “It was so loud and the had the trucks parked on the field. The only good thing about it was that the workers had normal working hours. They weren’t here too early and they always left around 5 p.m.”
As bad as that steep drop from the field to the tracks is, Young said the frequency in which freight trains use those tracks poses a even greater risk to the children playing on the field near that area. “Since the trees have been cut down, you can already notice how active the tracks are. I don’t even want to think about what would happen if a child goes after a ball and they fall as a train is coming through,” Young said.
Young said he believes the problem needs to be fixed immediately. “A fence needed to be put up yesterday.”
Somerton Civic Association member Seth Kaplan contacted the owner of the train tracks to help resolve the issue. “We got in touch with [CSX] who is going to be assuming responsibility and will be making a contribution to Somerton Youth Organization to have a fence put up to protect the safety of the children. That is what this all comes down to.”
CSX spokesman Robert Sullivan said the company is fully aware of the danger resulting in the exposed area near the Somerton field. “[CSX] is cooperating with the Somerton Youth Organization and city officials to find an immediate solution to keep the Somerton Youth facility a safe environment for children,” Sullivan said.
CSX is one of the nation’s leading transportation suppliers. Overall, the CSX transportation network encompasses about 21,000 route miles of track in 23 states, the District of Columbia and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. CSX operates 2,000 miles of track in Pennsylvania.
Even though CSX owns the property adjacent to its tracks, the trees at the Somerton fields affected PECO-owned power lines and CSX decided to cut the trees down due to that interference.
“I think they cut it down a little too far, which ultimately resulted in this issue,” Kaplan of the civic association said.
Kaplan, who is also a coach for the Somerton Baseball League, explained the shock parents had after seeing the exposed area. “I think it was a shock overall to come out there one day and find all the trees cut down, showing a wide-open space. Immediately, as a parent, my thoughts go right to the safety of the children.”
Kaplan said the hazardous site poses a risk to the safe environment the children have while playing on the field. “We have a beautiful athletic facility and organization that does a great job in providing for the kids. The last thing we want to do, is put the life of a child in harm’s way.”
Pennsylvania State Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-170th) said all parties are working together to take responsibility in resolving this issue in a timely matter. “It has been fairly smooth working with all parties,” Boyle said. “[CSX] has taken full responsibility from the beginning of this problem. Working with Seth Kaplan and Fran Young has been easy because we all just want the children protected.”
A plan to quickly erected a fence along the exposed track area is now in place.