And the clincher, they say, is that Amtrak officials originally cited homeland security as the reason for installing the fence.
"It seems like there are other areas more susceptible to terrorist attacks than four blocks in Bristol Borough," Borough Manager James Dillon said last week.
An Amtrak spokeswoman denied that the fence had been required by the Department of Homeland Security, which prompted Dillon to call Amtrak officials "a bunch of lying bureaucrats."
Regardless of the reason for the fence, residents consider it an eyesore that devalues their property.
"For the people on Garden Street, it's like living in a cage," Councilman Pat Sabatini said. "These are hardworking people who now have to come out of their houses and look at a fence.
"Why do we need it here? It's not fair."
Bert Barbetta, a lifelong borough resident who has lived on Garden Street for 20 years, said the wild trees at the fence block his view of the clock atop the landmark Grundy Tower.
"I would like to know we won't be caught in the middle of a tug-of-war between the borough and Amtrak, of who takes care of the overgrowth behind the fence," Barbetta said. "It's already out of control."
This all started in January, when residents were surprised to see fence poles springing up along their one-way street, at the base of the embankment.
"They just started doing it," Dillon said. "We found out from the residents."
Amtrak told the borough it didn't need a permit because the fence would be on its land, Dillon said. And the borough refused to issue one "because we didn't think a chain-link fence was needed."
At a Jan. 25 meeting, four Amtrak representatives told borough officials that the fence was required by Homeland Security, Dillon said.
"Once we heard 'Homeland Security,' we thought we couldn't object anymore," said Dillon, who has served as a municipal manager for 44 years, including the last eight in Bristol.
"We asked whether it was to prevent people from jumping in front of trains, and we were told it was not a suicide fence," he said.
Borough officials requested a more attractive black aluminum fence matching the one Amtrak installed a few blocks away about 18 months ago, Dillon said. The Amtrak officials responded that the black aluminum fence is not a security fence.
Borough officials also asked Amtrak to start by fencing off the other side of the tracks, where there are few homes, Dillon said. But only the Garden Street side was done, and the Amtrak spokeswoman said there was no funding for the other fence.
A month later, Amtrak's Bill Hollister sent Dillon a letter stating that the fence "is not federally mandated. Nonetheless, Amtrak's safety and security standards include fencing on Amtrak property along the right-of-way areas."
Hollister, the principal officer of the Government Affairs Department, said the project would proceed because "media reports have indicated that children in the neighborhood have been using the embankment for sledding and other activities."
Amtrak spokeswoman Danelle Hunter did not provide the cost of the project.
Responding to residents' concerns, Amtrak planted three-foot arborvitae shrubs to eventually conceal the fence.
"Neighbors used to take care of it. They'd take over a mower," said Joe Hesson, who has lived on the block for 40 years. "Now they can't."
The fence also keeps first responders' vehicles from reaching the tracks and embankment. Resident Joe Coffman said four people have been killed on that stretch of tracks in the 44 years he has lived on Garden Street.
But it doesn't keep out people on foot.
"My 11-year-old grandson walked up the abutment to the other side of the fence and just kept walking," the former councilman said.
Coffman has given the borough a petition signed by 41 residents of Garden Street requesting removal of the fence. Dillon supports them.
"Residents keep their homes nice," he said. "They don't deserve a chain-link fence."
Contact Bill Reed at 215-801-2964 or email@example.com, or follow on Twitter @breedbucks. Read his blog, "BucksInq," at www.philly.com/bucksinq.