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6/3/2010
Citizens Anti-graffiti Brigade tackles Greenville eyesore with fresh coat of paint. - Community News

By Adam Zewe 
Community News 
Posted Jun 03, 2010 @ 05:57 AM
Greenville, Del. — 

Speeding through southern Greenville along Route 141, it’s hard not to notice the graffiti words “Nerd Humor” splayed across a rusty, green railroad bridge.

But there’s nothing funny about it, according to a group of legislators, community leaders and volunteers. Starting Sunday night, they will mark the beginning of a five-day project to paint over the graffiti that has marred the railroad bridge for at least a quarter of a century.

“We don’t know anybody who remembers when [the graffiti] wasn’t here,” said Deborah Hudson (R-Fairthorne) who helped organize the project.

Once paint hits the bridge, it will be the culmination of a mammoth undertaking at least four years in the making, Hudson said. After attending a handful of community meetings in 2006, she initially reached out to the East Penn Railroad, a short-line that operates 111 miles of track in Delaware and eastern Pennsylvania, asking them to paint over the graffiti.

The East Penn Railroad, which has owned that bridge since 2007, has maintained it and kept it structurally sound, but hadn’t painted the graffiti for economic reasons, said Bob Parker, president and CEO.

“I understand it’s an eyesore to the community, but in these challenging economic times, we couldn’t justify painting it,” he said.

So Hudson asked DelDOT if they’d paint it and, though the department turned her down, they said they’d be willing to partner with a privately-funded project.

In the meanwhile, residents from one of County Councilman Bob Weiner’s anti-graffiti brigades, which Weiner (R-Chatham) founded in 2007, began painting over the graffiti on the concrete bridge supports, but stopped short of tackling “Nerd Humor,” because of safety concerns.

“We stopped as far as our tippy-toes could reach,” he said.

Without funding and permission from the East Penn Railroad, that graffiti could not be touched, Weiner said.

The project took a huge step forward, however, when Townsend resident Mike Ansul contacted Weiner last August to ask how he could support the graffiti brigades.

A contractor by trade, Ansul grew up in Brandywine Hundred and said he wanted to do something to beautify the area. Through Ansul’s work setting up a graffiti brigade in southern New Castle County, he learned about the group’s hope for the bridge, an eyesore he’d driven under countless times.

“This isn’t the Bronx. We’re in New Castle County,” he said. “This is a nice area with a nice group of people living here.”

So Ansul took the lead, organizing a small army of professionals willing to volunteer their time and donate materials to the cause.
With Ansul on board and the project finally moving forward, Hudson started raising money, with a goal of gathering $15,000. They haven’t hit their goal yet, but they’ve paid all their bills to date, Hudson said, and she’s confident contributors will kick in the rest by the time the work is finished.

The railroad has given the group access to the bridge and also agreed to pay for the installation of a security fence to keep vandals from spray-painting the bridge again, said Parker. He didn’t know about previous attempts by volunteers to paint the bridge when it was under different ownership, but liability issues likely played a role in those groups being turned away.

A true public-private partnership, the Delaware State and New Castle County Police, as well as DelDOT workers, will be on hand to control traffic and oversee safety while the volunteers paint the bridge, Hudson said.

And the group will continue to do its due diligence after the paint dries, Ansul said. They’re prepared to hit the bridge again if the graffiti returns to keep discouraging the vandals, he said.

A fresh coat of green paint could work wonders for harboring a sense of civic pride, said Ansul.

“I think everyone in the community is going to be pleasantly surprised by how good it looks,” he said.

Copyright 2010 The Community News. Some rights reserved 

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