Ever Wonder Who You Call?

While I was walking my son to school yesterday, I saw a vine beginning to make its way across the sidewalk near my son’s school. At first I didn’t pay much attention to the vine. But then I noticed three leaves, and my stomach lurched as I directed my son, who was in sandals and with bare legs, to the other side of the sidewalk so that he didn’t accidentally brush up against the poison ivy.

I quickly looked into who I should notify about the poison ivy. I realized that the vine was coming through the fence of one of the CA pools. I needed to notify someone at CA, but who? Did I call that particular pool? Did I call the main office? Just where? I’m sure they would want to know about an unsafe condition, but it wasn’t obvious where to direct my concern, especially at 8:30 a.m. — when the pools are closed.

Poison ivy happens. I get it in my yard quite often, unfortunately. Other things happen, too — like broken glass on pathways, vandalism to CA signs, a fallen tree and so on. Sure, we could just wait for someone who works at CA to stumble upon the problem, but the good samaritan thing to do would be to report it.

So, I did some investigating. I went to the Columbia Association’s website and clicked the Contact tab on the main page. Up popped a page of important contacts and numbers. At the top of the page is a link to the Community Solutions Program. I could fill out this form via the internet and someone would contact me about my concern by the following business day. Also at the bottom of the page, I saw the line: Open Space — Paths, Tot Lots: 410-312-6330. I assumed this would also be the number to call for poison ivy creeping onto pathways and sidewalks.

I also found a PDF document called Public Information Guide. I probably got a version of this guide when I moved here and went to the CA main office, but, of course, I probably never read it. In that guide, in the text under Open Space Management, I found that you are to call Open Space Management at 410-312-6330 for downed trees, vandalism and illegal dumping. Yep, it seems I found the right number to call!

I called the number, near the end of the day I might add, and Jeri answered the phone cheerfully. I was being sneaky and didn’t mention that I am a CA employee. I wanted to get it resolved without pulling favors. I told her that I had seen poison ivy coming from the CA pool onto the sidewalk that leads to an elementary school. She asked for the pool’s name and the precise location of the poison ivy.

Of course, I hadn’t looked up the street address before I called. She said, “That’s OK, let me just pull up a map.” She pulled up the map, found the street name and documented it. She then took my name and number and said she would put in a work order to the Open Space crew as well as to the pool. The crew would treat the poison ivy and the pool staff would see if there was anything else they should do. At the very least, the pool staff would learn that poison ivy is an issue in the pool’s shaded area at this time. When the problem is fixed, she will give me a call to tell me the work order had been completed.

It was as easy as that. Less than 24 hours later, I saw the grounds crew at work, trimming away the poison ivy.


Melissa Sinclair works in the Communications & Engagement Division at Columbia Association (CA). Melissa recently moved to Columbia with her three-generation family. She has lived in more than a dozen cities and is looking forward to making Columbia, Md., her permanent home! Over the past year she has worked on losing weight, getting fit and doing volunteer work; she is now looking forward to working for CA after staying home with her family for the last several years. Melissa has a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and a master’s degree in educational administration. Click here to read more of Melissa’s Getting to Know CA series.


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