Twice a year, Universal Stainless Steel sends workers to cut the grass in a vacant lot it owns at the end of Union Street in Bridgeville. The parcel’s permeter is surrounded by a rusty, leaning barbed-wire fence that hasn’t protected anything since the steel company removed its water tanks from the area years ago.
It’s an obvious eyesore.
So why not remove the fence on Union Street and let nature reclaim the lot, says Mayor Pat DeBlasio.
“Where I find objection is when [a vacant lot] is not maintained so it looks just like you not cutting your grass,” he said at the April 10 borough council meeting. “If we… let it become a wooded area, now it’s rather attractive,”
In some urban areas, abandoned vacant lots are being turned into community gardens, playgrounds, and other aesthetically pleasing projects. Most of the vacant lots in Bridgeville are privately owned, which prevents the borough from declaring them open garden space. However, allowing some lots to revert to their fully natural state could be more visually appealing than having a bare-minimum landscape job performed every six months.
“If we have a lot that’s better served by not being cut, let’s allow that to happen,” DeBlasio said.
One potential downside, said council president Michael Tolmer, is that people living near these lots might not appreciate everything that comes with a fully grown, natural space.
“You could have a place where somebody lives next door to a lot that was partially maintained,” he said, “and now there are trees and they have animals coming into their back yards that they didn’t have before, so you have to be careful.”
Borough manager Lori Collins said that some people living next door to lots where houses were condemned or demolished have complained about sudden influxes of mice.