Not in Your Backyard: Property lines crop up in Cobbs Creek


Surveyors have begun marking property lines through what some neighbors of the Cobbs Creek golf course had thought were their backyards.

Deborah Harris-White, who has lived on the 7600 block of Brockton Road in the Overbrook Park neighborhood for 23 years, says that the orange spray paint and stakes with “property line” written on them took her and her neighbors by surprise. “We hadn’t heard anything from the City about this. So no one was aware,” she says. “We knew they were redoing the golf course. We didn’t know they were going to come in and cut down those trees. It looked like a war zone back there,” she says, referring to the logging of approximately 100 acres of trees by the West Conshohocken–based Cobbs Creek Foundation, controlled by the billionaire McGuire family, which is renovating the Cobbs Creek and Karakung golf courses after signing a 70-year (including extensions) lease for $1 with the City.

City records show that many of the yards on the 7500 and 7600 blocks of Brockton extend beyond the park boundary. White-Harris says she and her neighbors had based the boundary on where the City or past companies leasing the golf course had traditionally mowed the grass. Neighbors maintained the space between their houses and the mowed grass, and over the years had added sheds, driveways and other amenities to what they had figured was their property.

Photos courtesy of Ruth Jenkins.

“We have maintained those properties because we were told those were part of our property lines. They would mow to a certain point, and each individual homeowner would mow the rest,” Harris-White says.

Philadelphia Parks & Recreation (PPR) director Kathryn Ott Lovell discussed the issue of what she called “encroaching amenities” in June 2019 in a letter, obtained in response to a right-to-know request by Lawrence Szmulowicz, who volunteers as a Cobbs Creek Ambassador and with Cobbs Creek Environmental Justice. Ott Lovell addressed the letter to Cobbs Creek Foundation founding CEO Christopher Lange, and in it she reminded him that neighbors might not be aware that they have been encroaching on the golf course property, and that they might have spent “considerable money” on the amenities. She wrote that the City must be sensitive in dealing with the neighbors as it tries to get them to remove the amenities.

In November 2022 a PPR spokesperson told Grid that, “at this time, PPR has no plans to address encroachments on the course.” PPR has not yet responded to a Grid request for comment on the recent marking of property lines.

“The golf course is going to do whatever the golf course is going to do,” Harris-White says. “We’re not strong enough to stop a billionaire developer. We’re just asking to keep our land with the amenities we’ve put up.”


  1. Assuming that a survey confirms what’s in the deeds of those homeowners I cannot imagine any outcome other than what the property laws say.
    Maybe a property lawyer could comment here.

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