By Jeanne Sager
PARKSVILLE October 25, 2002 Driving up to Marilyn Berrys home is reminiscent of a childs nursery rhyme.
Winding round and round on Breezy Hill Road, youd almost expect to hear strains of Shell be coming round the mountain when she comes.
But navigating the road isnt childs play for Berry and the dozens of residents who live on the Parksville street.
In fact, Berry refers to the road in front of her yellow house as a deathtrap, and she wants something to be done about it.
Breezy Hill Road juts off of Route 17, a typical backwoods byway a narrow strip rounding the mountain with sharp curves and a steep incline.
But there are no guardrails along the roadside, no signs warning of a turn ahead, no shoulder to pull off on if a large vehicle is coming in the other direction.
Berry alleges that the town has ignored the roads residents requests for improvements.
There are elderly folks on the road who require visits from the ambulance often. There are several Orthodox camps which receive large shipments in the summertime, requiring tractor-trailers packed to the gills with linens or food to make use of Breezy Hill Road. Buses traverse the road to drop children off.
The intersections with other roads, including Pearl Lake, a heavily pitted gravel road near the top of Breezy Hill, have fallen into disrepair. Improper drainage created a ditch so big at the intersection that Berrys car fell in late one summer evening when she had no visibility. The damage was so extensive that she had to have an overhaul of her exhaust system, Berry explained.
In the summer, Berry said, the dangers increase tenfold. Manhattan residents take to the back road and speed through the blind curves.
Shes heard the crashing, and shes heard the ambulances arrive over and over.
We hear it all, Berry said, head-ons, sideswipes, roll-overs this has to stop.
Theyre going to wait for a death before they do anything, she surmised. What about our kids?
My grandkids use this road, she continued. Were very close on this road, and I dont want any of my friends to be hurt or killed.
Not fixing the road, Berry said, is the worst case of human indifference shes ever seen.
She doesnt want to move. She loves the mountain. She loves the serenity of life atop Breezy Hill. But she does want to see things change, so shes not afraid to drive out from her home.
What am I hoping to accomplish? she asked. Not one life lost, not one person hurt.
But what are my options? she continued. Whats to my avail?
All I know is that I have to be persistent and tenacious.
Berry has been at this for three years. Because Route 17 will have to be revamped when it becomes Interstate 86, Berry said shes been told that her road isnt a priority, that it cant be fixed until the town makes its plans for the I-86 transfer.
She recently sought legal counsel to draw up a letter to the town board because, she said, Highway Superintendent Tim Pellam and other town officials have ignored her requests.
Not so, said Pellam.
We have 126 miles of road in this town we have to take care of, he noted. A year ago we fixed a mile toward the end of [Breezy Hill] road because that was the worst of it, and now were working our way back.
The highway department has already taken down a dozen trees on the worst curves to improve visibility, he said, and they have at least a dozen more to tackle.
They were up on Breezy Hill Road Wednesday patching potholes, he added, and theyve got plans to widen the road in its worst spots by next spring.
Were going to be taking the banks back next year, Pellam explained. Well widen about 20 feet of roadway.
If the winter is mild enough, Pellam said, hell have men on it this year. If snow keeps the town busy, hell send a crew out next year to tackle the road.
According to Berry, the town has put other roads ahead of Breezy Hill, roads she claims arent nearly as dangerous.
Theyve done other roads in Liberty, she explained, why not ours?
What do they think we are up here woodchucks, country bumpkins?
It cant be who you know, Berry said. It should be done for the sake of the people.
In addition to the widening of the road, Berry is asking for guardrails to protect people from sliding off the steep bank.
But once the road is widened, Pellam said, that shouldnt be necessary. The added width should make the road more easily passable by two cars and open up some of the blind curves.
After we widen it, it shouldnt be a problem, he said.