Not since the Vietnam War have there been such cruel and diabolical devices used against the enemy as punji traps. Carefully hidden amongst the vegetation, holes were dug and lined with sharpened sticks designed to impale the person who fell in. There they would be trapped, run through with multiple spears, to bleed to death.Not a very pleasant picture, is it? That is exactly what we now have hidden in our roadside ditches right here in Queens. Surely this is against the Geneva Convention and when did pedestrians and cyclists become the enemy?

Earlier this summer, a feeble attempt was made to increase the sight lines along the narrow, winding #3 Hwy from White Point to Summerville, by cutting away the ever growing vegetation. Apparently this hasn’t been done in quite some time, judging by the girth of the alders filling up the ditches along this stretch of road. Some are two inches in diameter.  Ditches should be clear of heavy vegetation as they serve a purpose. However, once the work was done, what was left is shockingly dangerous!

First off, whatever implement was used, was operated from the flat road surface and reached across the ditches, simply lopping the tops off. This wouldn’t even be so bad if the trunks of the alders were actually cut. In that case they would have blunt ends. Not so. Whatever was used wasn’t sharp so it tore, broke and ripped them off, leaving pointed, jagged, splintered ends pointing straight up. They couldn’t be any sharper if you whittled them to points on purpose.  They are rooted firmly in the ditch and are about two feet high. There are clusters of them everywhere. They are unsightly and they are dangerous.  Of course, at first you could plainly see them. Now they have grayed out with weather and ferns, weeds, grass, etc have grown up to hide them from view.

There are a lot of cyclists and pedestrians around and this road is quite narrow. One bad driver, road hog or vehicular incident could easily cause someone on the side to have to jump out of the way. With nowhere but the ditch to go, it would be an awful way to die, being speared to death by alders. I shudder to think of the outcome.

I am aware money is tight everywhere, but by cutting corners doing it this way, an even more dangerous situation exists. I wonder if there is any way these ditches could be cleared out properly?


Lynn Sponagle



  1. I can understand the writer being upset with the condition of the ditches in the area in question. However it seems to be completely off base to compare it to the acts the Vietcong committed in Vietnam.

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