The Ferncliff Fence has 4,800 Facebook Friends. ‘Some fences have just got it,’ the fence says.

When a secton of fence gets hit one too many times it sets off across the area to find what might be out there beyond the reach of fast-moving drivers. 
When a section of the wrought iron fence surrounding Ferncliff Cemetery and Arboretum was hit on April 4, it hadn’t yet been fixed from when it was hit two days before.

In fact, this section of the fence surrounding the cemetery is destroyed so often by careening cars that the cemetery budgets $30,000 a year for its repairs.

The fence has been hit about 60 times since 2018 – including four times this year in the span of about a month, says Shelley Baker, executive director of the cemetery, located at 501 W. McCreight Ave.

“If the office is open, many times we see it,” she says, noting that most drivers are cited, some flee the scene, and some vehicles are totaled after a crash.

Now the fence has a Facebook presence – two, in fact. One is overseen by the cemetery itself, and a second, satirical profile of The Ferncliff Fence garnered 4,800 friends in less than two months.

“I am a fence. Please stop hitting me,” is The Ferncliff Fence’s introduction online. (See an interview with The Ferncliff Fence below.)

Courtesy of Ferncliff FenceTwice in one week!!! Please folks, SLOW DOWN and drive carefully. — April 4 postMost of the accidents occur when the road in front of the fence is wet or when it has rained earlier, Baker says.

“We do believe speed and not paying attention is part of the problem,” she says.

Adding to the issue, she says, is that the road’s curve is banked slightly incorrectly. In fact, she says that many of the cars hit the fence with the back of the vehicle first.

A sign with flashing lights will be installed by the city, which also is trying to get permission for rumble strips, she says. Other ideas – such as a wall, boulders or guardrails – have been rejected either for the sake of appearance or because they could cause vehicles to bounce back into traffic. Safety is the primary concern, Baker says.

Fixing the way the road banks would be a long-term solution, but she is hopeful that will be unnecessary with the other efforts.

The cemetery has spent about $125,000 on fence repairs since 2018, she says. That doesn’t include the approximately $12,000 it will cost to repair the damage from early April.

Courtesy of Ferncliff FenceI came to the park to make new friends. The geese were very friendly and introduced themselves almost immediately! Here we see my friends Honk, Honk, Honk and Bitey. Such a beautiful day! Thank you for all of your kind words! — March 20 postDrivers who run into the fence don’t always have insurance, and at times the damage isn’t worth a claim on the cemetery’s insurance, she says, Although the cemetery has built money into the budget to care for the fence, Baker would rather see those funds put toward a security guard position, a fountain, or more trees.

“It’s a shame, but that’s the reality,” she says.

The cemetery began its own Facebook page for the fence in February and now has about 900 followers. It came just a few months after Champion City Guide & Supply introduced shirts featuring “The Curse of the Ferncliff Fence” with a woman screaming in the foreground.
A new batch of Ferncliff Fence shirts came back in stock at Champion City in April, according to the Facebook page of the retail store owned and operated by the Greater Springfield Partnership and the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Baker understands the fun and funny side of the fence’s infamy. But the continual destruction of the Ferncliff fence is serious, Baker says, and cemetery staff hopes drivers and pedestrians walking along the fence avoid getting hurt. 

Courtesy of Ferncliff FenceI wanted to try something new so I am taking pickleball lessons! My instructor has said I am the easiest 50 bucks he has ever made and he keeps asking me if I still have the receipt for my paddle. I do not understand what that means. — March 22 postThe cemetery is a community landmark, she says, and she hopes the attention will keep Ferncliff top of mind in a positive way.

“The more that Ferncliff can stay on the minds of folks in the area, the better for us,” she says.

Ferncliff Fence speaks out 

The Hub Springfield recently reached out to The Ferncliff Fence via its Facebook profile to ask a few questions in between its jaunts around town. (Answers have been edited for clarity.)

1. The Ferncliff Fence is notorious for vehicles crashing into it. How do you feel about your reputation?

Keep in mind, there is only a 200-foot section that draws vehicles, so I almost feel it is unfair to place that stigma on the half-mile of fence that remains unhit on a regular basis. That being said, if my family and I were not there, the talk would be about the people who run into the 100-year-old headstones practically bi-monthly, so it is an honor to offer the protection of the cemetery. It can just be a lot sometimes. That’s why I ventured out for something new.

2. Why did you start a Facebook page?

Facebook can be a lightning rod for both the positive and negative, but I definitely wanted to focus on the positive. I figured it was a good way to share my journey with people and show them the amazing community that we are all a part of.

Courtesy of Ferncliff FenceWith all of the improvements downtown, I am impressed that they have gone as far as they have to cater to the fence community. It is supposed to be “completed” by April but to me, it is perfect as it is. #AllFencesAreBeautiful — March 23 post3. You have been traveling throughout Springfield and Clark County, posting photos of a fence portion in front of local landmarks like the Hartman Rock Garden, the Hertzler House Museum, and the Westcott House – and even playing pickleball in Snyder Park. Why?

My favorite comments on the posts are the ones where people say they had never been to a place I visited. If I get an opportunity to try something new or visit someplace new I will jump at it, and I hope that the people reading it will join me. We are very fortunate to live and work in a community so full of history. It’s not always perfect, but it is documented and preserved and available to be discovered. Not doing so is a waste. Plus, pickleball looked fun.

4. At least one person called your Facebook page “Springfield’s finest satire.” How do you feel about that? 

I thought satire was a type of dessert. Is it not?

5. You started your Facebook page in March and are nearing 5,000 friends. Why do you think it became so popular so quickly?

I am sure the popularity was not just from the absurdity of a section of fence with a Facebook page (although it helps), but because every community wants something to rally behind, like an underdog. I am sure you’ve all driven down West McCreight and seen fresh damage on the fence and said the same thing: “How do people keep hitting the fence?” or “Ugh, that poor fence,” or something like that. When they saw that I had had enough and wanted a better life for myself, they wanted to be a part of it. As for the number of friends/followers? Hey, some fences have just got it, you know?
Courtesy of Ferncliff FenceI visited the Davidson Interpretation Center and had a wonderful conversation with Carleton Davidson himself. I asked why there were so many different spellings of Peckuwe and he didn’t know. I then asked why he had the extra “E” in his first name and that may have offended him. He did not have much to say after that. The good news is that the Davidson Interpretation Center is full of information about the Battle of Pecquewey! But please do not mention the “E”. It is still a sore subject. — April 29 post
6. How do you feel about The Ferncliff Fence merchandise that has been sold at Champion City Guide & Supply?

Like I said before, people like to rally behind an underdog. I love the shirts and I think Chris Schutte (vice president of destination marketing and communications for the Greater Springfield Partnership) and the minds over at Champion City Guide & Supply are smart for coming up with it. But as I’ve said before in my posts, I don’t get a penny of that. As a matter of fact, I had to buy my OWN shirt. Well worth it though.

7. Do you have a message for the staff of Ferncliff Cemetery and Arboretum?

Ferncliff Cemetery and Arboretum is one of the most beautiful spaces in the city. It blends the rich history of this community with the natural landmarks that have helped shape Springfield from its beginnings. The staff works tirelessly to ensure that the grounds are maintained, and that each resident is treated with the respect they deserve. As I stated before, it was an honor to have acted as a protector of that sacred space. But maybe put a guardrail up? Just a suggestion? I mean, I’m just a fence. What do I know? 

8. What would you like to tell the drivers of Clark County?

I’m not familiar with driving, so I may not be the best one to give advice, but from what I have seen I know that the pedal on the left is the brake pedal. Please feel free to use liberally on curves.

9. Do you have a human helper, typing posts and taking photos? If so, would he or she like to reveal themselves?

This community has been very kind to me. Many have offered to help with any ideas and have given suggestions about where I should go. So, in a way, I’ve had thousands of human helpers. It’s been truly a blessing. There is one person who drives me around, but they are a deadbeat who deserves zero recognition.
Courtesy of Ferncliff FenceI took some time last evening to hang out downtown with the crows while they picked through the grass and trash bins for something to eat. Although to many they are a nuisance but they say that crows are incredibly smart and I see that. Downtown is a stunning place at night and with more and more things drawing visitors in I can see why the crows hang out too. I have been out wandering since the middle of March and have been fortunate to have many of you virtually with me on my journey, but I am starting to feel my true place might be where I was all along. — April 25 post

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