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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fenced In (Guest Post by Ben Petracco)

On a casual drive through Fort Thomas on any given day you see people walking and running through town; exercising up and down the streets of the city, enjoying the outdoors and getting their necessary cardio. Up until 2001, there was a popular exercise spot where one could park their car, enjoy the fresh air and walk as many laps as their cross trainers could carry them. This exercise location has all but been forgotten, it had a fence put up around it and the exercise crowd has been asked to disperse. I am referring to the Fort Thomas reservoir and its restricted track that is no longer accessible to the residents of Fort Thomas.

I was interested in why the sudden restriction was placed on the reservoir. I contacted the Vice President of Engineering, Water Quality and Production with the Water Company, Mr. Richard Harrison, and asked him general questions about the fence project and the future of the Fort Thomas Reservoir.

The fence was erected in late 2001 early 2002, but I had never heard a clear explanation as to why. What was the over all catalyst to put up a perimeter fence?

Mr. Harrison said, “The events of September 11th prompted a federally mandated vulnerability assessment to all reservoirs, tanks and public water facilities in the area. The fence was a required increase in security to ensure that anyone inside the reservoir area in fact had access and was supposed to be there.”

I was completely unaware that the terrorist attacks had a subtle effect right in our backyard, but the attacks were the main reason for the increased security around the water company facilities.
I asked Harrison what the total cost was to put up the fence around the reservoir and he advised that it cost approximately $330,000. There is a lot of fencing around both of the reservoirs that range from route 27 to South Fort Thomas Avenue and everything in between.

At one time, I was an avid runner and walker of the track so I asked Harrison if there is any plan to open the reservoir to the public again. He advised that at this time there is no plan to open the track back up to the public. The impending restriction from the track is understandable considering the work and the cost that went in to protecting the area.

The fence may be viewed as a negative addition to the reservoir by some, but it is a necessary step in protecting our water supply. I inquired with Harrison, “What are some of the benefits to now having the fence up and placing a strict ‘no trespassing’ law on the reservoir?” He explained, “The main benefits of the fence are to know that the reservoir is secure at all times. Now anyone that is seen on the grounds is employed by the water company or they are permitted to be beyond the fence line; before the fence you never could be sure if the individuals on the grounds were employees or trespassers.”

After the mandated vulnerability assessment, the fence was viewed as a necessity to secure our water supply and ensure our safety. You may think “this is Fort Thomas, no terrorist-related act would ever happen here,” but being safe is much better than being sorry. The exercise enthusiasts will find streets and sidewalks elsewhere to get their hearts pumping, but after that workout, they’ll find extra solace in knowing that the ice cold glass of water is safe to drink.

What are your thoughts on the reservoir and the addition of the fence? Leave your comments here:


  1. If a terrorist wanted to really gain access to the water supply,I doubt that fence would really keep them out. It seems like the Water Company was just trying to figure out a way to get rid of dealing with the public walkers/runners. A great compromise might be charging a dollar to walkers and runners. I used to walk and run up there daily, and know several others who did as well. An admission charge could help cover the cost of someone to monitor the entrace, as well as offset the cost of the fence. It is a shame that such a great resource is gone for the community.

  2. Really?! Did you just move here? This is old (ten year old!) news.

    Oh, there's this stone wall, a tower and some old buildings in Tower Park. This is because it used to be an army base!!!

    Just in case you hadn't heard...

  3. I totally agree with the decision to close the reservoir to the public. There are many other options in our city and I would much rather be "inconvenienced" for the sake of our safety. Truthfully, I'm kind of stymied as to why people were so up in arms over the decision in the first place. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I think the country overall is complacent and we are certainly guilty of that in Fort Thomas.

  4. Waste of $330K, but perfectly in step with our (T)heater of (S)ecurity and the (A)bsurd culture.

  5. I used to enjoy walking around the reservoir, but in the months preceding September 11 I did notice that many pet owners were not practicing due diligence in cleaning up after their pets. As a previous poster stated, there are so many places in town to enjoy a nice walk. I don't think of the reservoir as being high on the terrorists' "hit list," but I think it's better to be safe than sorry.

  6. Hey, Rumpelstiltskin!

    Welcome to the 21st Century!

    And, you wonder why newspapers are still around? Editors..

  7. I completely disagree with the decision to close the reservoir to the public. The fence does nothing to impede any type of "attack" on our water source, and only serves to lessen our great city.

    The $330,000 that could've gone elsewhere aside, I think Ben Franklin summed up my feelings here:

    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

    EXCEPT that this fence gives us no safety. None.

  8. Security theater, really. Presumably the end-goal is to keep foreign substances out of the water. Is there anyone that believes that a nefarious type wouldn't just lob his payload over the fence?

    This order must have been conjured by the same crack security experts that insist that 3.5 oz of liquid in a bottle will potentially take down an aircraft, but that 6oz between two bottles are perfectly safe.

    Not even going to touch the 10th amendment issues...

  9. Really? The terrorists are going to come to Fort Thomas, KY and poison the water supply?

    Nanny state government at its best. Let the Ft. Thomas cougars walk around the reservoir.

  10. I used to be a regular user of the reservoir and was very disappointed when it was restricted. I recall going to the site as the fence was being installed. At that time I spoke (off the record) with a water company employee who stated the main reason the fence went up was because NKWD was tired of maintaining the property for the public. He said that someone would have to back a semi truck up to the reservoir to effectively poison our water supply. "The solution is dilution" he said. I think allowing the public to use the walking paths would actually be safer than a fence. The eyes and ears of the citizens of Fort Thomas are your best security system. I saw the same people every time I was there and would definitely notice someone who was out of place or doing something suspicious.

  11. I used to walk the reservoir and remember taking my kids in strollers and bikes around the big figure 8. I do understand why it is fenced now, isn't it a shame that the extremists change many parts of our lives that were once enjoyable.
    Ellen T.

  12. The water District supplies water to all of Kenton and Campbell counties, not just the city of Fort Thomas. I'm glad they considered the safety of all of their customers not just the wants of 1 neighborhood. I think it's nice to go through town and see people walking and meeting in the street.

  13. Another great job, Ben. We know the fence has been up for a while now, but it's always good to rehash why things are the way they are.

    Not everyone has grown up or even lived in Fort Thomas since the fence has been up, and I'm sure people didn't know that it was once a really nice place to walk/run.

    I agree with the sentiments of most that it's a shame the fence has to be there - for whatever the reason.

  14. I agree with all those who say this was a waste of money (just like the red metal posts all around the army reserve building--do we really think they will stop a terrorist who is bent on destruction?). Someone who wants to harm the water supply would not be deterred by the fence. In fact, the fence may even provide us with a false sense of security. We'd be better off without the fence.

  15. I can remember as a kid we would play baseball down at the "res" as we would call it. A home run was Memorial Pkwy. Amazing, we never did cause an accident and there were many home runs! One as I remember was hit up onto Dixie Place by Dave Dickerson! Ahh those were the days - Feldmanns, Enslens, Smittys, Weidemanns Bakery, TNDC.

  16. It's a well known fact that the water company had been desiring a way to keep people away from the resevior and out of their way for quite a long time. The security excuse is comical, as this is not the norm for other reseviors in the country.

    Studies have shown that attacking a water system in this way would be so impractical that such facilities should not be considered a target.

    People have enjoyed the waters of the resevior thr generations. Children have fished there, babies have strolled there, people have relaxed in this tranquil setting. But no more. Now there is no such aquatic setting for our residents, and that is truly a shameful loss.

    Common sense should prevail and the resevior once again opened to the public. If you truly want REAL security, put up some cameras, or take any number of other, more reasonable, measures to achieve the secure feeling you desire.

  17. Open the gates and may the babies be strolled for generations to come!