Essay: Fences and Neighbors

Jul 3, 2020


Our neighbors have put a fence around their yard. They have a good reason, wanting to protect their toddler from wandering into the street.

Those of us who live nearby stand in the alley and comment on the new fence. We respect their good reason and cherish their toddler—and console ourselves that the fence isn’t very high. But it changes the landscape of the neighborhood.

There have been a lot of fences going up in Traverse City neighborhoods lately, or so it seems. “Privacy fences” they are sometimes called, the tall ones that you can’t see through. They feel a little unfriendly, somehow.
Now, I know that everybody has the right to do as he pleases in his own back yard, including me. But it’s a fine line—a property line—and we also have a responsibility to the people who share it with us. Because every fence changes the landscape of the neighborhood—and changes the feel of the neighborhood, too.
The truth is I want it both ways: the privacy and the community. So, if we have to have a fence, I want one I can see through, one I can lean over and talk with my neighbor.