Trail nix III: Busted blades on Bland

Some people were angry about the brush pile that a Bland Circle resident erected over the portion of the Rivanna Trail that once crossed her property, but they were helpless to change the situation. But now the City itself has stepped in to force the resident to remove the gleaming spirals of wire. Enforcement, however, may not happen anytime soon.

Two weeks ago, when The Hook first reported on the 30-foot stretch of razor wire, City officials believed that Shirley Presley, the woman behind it, was not only endangering animals and people who might wander past, she was breaking the law.

Section 5-152 of the Charlottesville City Code allows razor wire (or any other barbed wire) only on commercial properties, and only at a height of six feet or higher. Violating this section constitutes a Class I misdemeanor, punishable by a $2,500 fine and/or one year in jail.

At just two feet above ground, Presley's concertina wire is waist height for a child and head or chest height for the many animals that could attempt to pass through.

That caught the attention of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

"An animal could be mortally wounded if an artery was severed," said Stephanie Boyles, a wildlife biologist with the animal rights organization. "What a hideous device."

After making the trek down the steep hill behind Bland Circle, inspectors seemed to agree, and found that Presley's fence was indeed a violation.

A certified letter has now been sent, and City inspector Patty Wolfred says her office has confirmation that the letter was received.

Presley has been waging battle with hikers for over a year– after a local trail group directed people over the riverfront portion of her property without permission. Presley did not return the Hook's phone calls by press time.

But receipt of the City's letter doesn't mean Presley must act quickly. In fact, she has six months to remove her wire before any fines are levied. Should Presley fail to remove the wire by the end of the six-month period, Wolfred says, each day it remains up constitutes a separate offense.

But six months seems like an awfully long time when safety's an issue.

"The City should step in now and make her replace the razor wire with regular fencing," says activist Kevin Cox. "I don't know why they're dawdling."

Wolfred says the city has its hands tied.

"We have to give her her due process," she explains.