Maryland Outdoor Club
Sat, Jan 15 2005 - Good Fences Make Good Neighbors (View Original Event Details)

Event Organizer(s): Jesse Allen
Participants:Jesse Allen, Wendy Wickham, Tressa Ellis, Allison Ehrman, Lucas Fisher, Keith Ellis, John Putman, cynthia hopson, H. Tran, Allyson Green, Christina Kaster, Terrence Brann, Dan DeVries, Herb Volker, Gunther Oakey, Don Garmer

Write Up:
It was a very cold and brisk early morning meeting at Greenbelt Metro station, but MOC members braved the cold and all arrived on time, save one member who later turned out to have canceled late and neglected to call the organizer. Tut tut! We formed our carpools and headed for the northernmost of the Conferederate States of America and the battlefield where they defended themselves in the War of Northern Aggression (or so it was explained to me by a southern colleague). At the Visitors' Center at the battlefield, we met with the last few brave souls joining us for the work crew, including Tran, who was, for some reason, under the impression we would be hiking, not building fences.

The park service crew took us out to the section of fence to be replaced. They explained that the distinstive 1860s-style split rail fences need to be replaced about every 15 years or so as they age. Unfortunately, the need for volunteer crews and the cost of the old-style split rails (and the dwindling supply of companies that make the necessary log sections, the 1860s being a bit out of fashion 140 years on) means it is often more likely to be 20 years or more and the fences tend to be in poor shape when they get the resources to replace them.

Our crew began by taking down the existing well-worn fence and stacking the old wood to be carried away. We also stacked new pieces onto the authentic 1860s lawn tractor to move them to a more convenient spot and reduce the amount of logs we would need to carry. Although it was quite cold and near freezing while we worked, the previous two weeks had been anomalously warm for January and rains in the previous days had turned the ground rather soft and mushy. We all quickly acquired a coating of mud! It also meant the large truck that would have delivered a great many new log sections had not been able to get in, and the work we could do was limited by what the small tractors had been able to get into place.

Nonetheless, we quickly mastered the fine art of stacking the logs in just the right way and inserting the cross pieces to hold them in place while one of the Park Service members went by with his authentic 1860s-style chainsaw to cut the suppporting strut pieces to the correct size.

After working for about two hours, we took a break for lunch. Tran was unwilling to stand in the cold and headed off for the Visitors' Center to eat indoors where it was warm. We never saw him again, so presumably he took the hike he signed up for after lunch. The rest of us enjoyed our repast and then chattered and tried to find ways to stay warm, though Allison's innovative solution of crouching down under her jacket made her look like a munchkin (or perhaps as if she sunk a couple of feet into the mud). But hey, she stayed warm!

After lunch, we set back to work and completed as much fence as we could with the materials in hand: we ran out of new logs before we ran out of fence sections. In the end, we removed about a quarter mile of old fence and replaced it with the new. The new fencing looks quite sharp and historically congruent with the park, notwithstanding the rather unlikely clean cut chainsawed ends. The Park Service was very pleased with our volunteer work for them and we hope we may be able to do more for them in the future. Several more miles of fencing, and logs to make it with, still waits for attention.

--Jesse Allen

Have some photos from this event that you'd like to share in our photo album? Please forward them to Amy Lipsius at Please note that we prefer to receive the photos in approximately 640x480 or 750x500 pixels - do NOT send original high-res photos. If you have a LOT of photos, please submit up to twenty of your favorites (only) for a day event, or up to forty of your favourites for a multi-day event. Thank you.