09/23/2013 11:46 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Stagecoach Alleys of Barry Farm and Imaginary Yellow Lines in Anacostia


An alley in Barry Farm that abuts the property line for the US Coast Guard is impassable. Photos by the author.

"We have to stop. I'll break my axle if we go any further." In providing a tour a couple weeks back to a reporter from the recently launched Al Jazeera America, William Alston-El and I had to turn around as we headed into an alley in Barry Farm. In contrast to the newly opened access road to the United States Coast Guard, which we had just cruised down, the alley presented an immediate danger.

"Can you imagine an ambulance trying to come through this alley?" Alston-El asked the reporter. "I don't think they're going to make it," he deadpanned as we finally maneuvered a five-point turn with a couple of sets of neighborhood eyes looking on, confused as to why we would try to challenge our fate in the hazardous alley.


Barry Farm abuts a U.S. Coast Guard security fence.

A stray cat drank water from a puddle and did not make an effort to move as we turned around. The edge of Barry Farm in this alley abuts the property line from the Coast Guard facility. Along the other side of the fence are guard booths that are not yet maned. On the Barry Farm side of the fence small boulders have been placed every couple of feet. "You see?" Alston-El asks the reporter. "The government did that to prevent anyone from running through the fence. So they can put big rocks over here but they can't fix the alley. What do you think?" Alston-El said, continuing his line of questioning.


Riding the smooth new access road into the United States Coast Guard.

Turning back on to the access road that leads to the Coast Guard, Alston-El lets out a sigh of relief. "No more riding in the stage coach, now it's like we are just floating on air; these roads are so smooth. You know they built this road out of the forest? There was nothing here not too long ago; this came from nowhere." The reporter simply listened instead of answering Alston-El's questions as we rode alongside a shuttle bus which had originated at from L'Enfant Plaza.

"Now, how can all this be built," Alston-El said as the new Coast Guard facility began to rise to his immediate left, "while that alley can't even be patched up? Or you can have no yellow lines on Good Hope Road [SE] so in the rain nobody can see where they're going? Or you can have this and the asphalt on U Street [SE] crumbling apart as it hasn't been paved in over forty years?" The reporter from Al Jazeera America sat in the back seat silently.

The "imaginary yellow line"


Follow the imaginary yellow line on the 1300 block of Good Hope Road SE.

At an ANC8A meeting earlier this month Alston-El stood up, as he is known to do in community gatherings, and said, "Since we have all of our neighborhood leaders in one place, can someone tell me when they are going to put the yellow line back on [the 1300 block of] Good Hope Road? Thank you."

As he took a seat and awaited a response nobody seemed to be aware of what he was talking about. Alston-El offered a brief explanation, describing the treacherous conditions of riding on the 1300 block of Good Hope Road SE in the rain. "Nobody knows where they are supposed to be." Once again, there was a silence. The next item of business was then read off the agenda.

"It must be an imaginary yellow line and I'm the only who can't see it," Alston-El said to me, disappointed but not surprised nobody expressed an interest or desire to address his inquiry. "When one of these folks gets in an accident and their insurance company says they don't have a claim don't say I didn't warn you."