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    Letters to the Editors

    Save our Sandbar members are sincere, not to blame

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published January 7, 2003

    Re: Communication should ease sandbar planning, editorial, Jan. 3.

    Once again, your lack of research astounds me; however, your determination to portray Save Our Sandbar -- a concerned group of boating citizens -- as the detractors in this issue does not. Who are you to question our sincerity? What have you done for your fellow citizens lately?

    The antagonism mentioned began early through no fault of SOS. Land use was changed with no input from local residents utilizing this land for 15 years. Initial meetings with state Department of Environmental Protection and Parks Department personnel were fruitless exercises in public relations dogma. Numerous requests for scientific research and data were ignored and later proved to be nonexistent.

    You mentioned acrimony. The initial efforts of SOS to bring the parks department to the table to define vague/nebulous terminology used in its management plan had been repeatedly ignored. State Sen. Mike Fasano decided it was time for the governor and Cabinet to step in in order to force DEP and the parks department to the table. His letter to the governor allowed SOS concerns to be put on the agenda for the August Cabinet aides meeting.

    With just several days' notice, we became aware that the DEP planned to get the Cabinet to sign off on the management plan. That would have made the new rules permanent, once again denying Pasco and Pinellas residents a voice in their own destiny. Only the efforts of the senator's aide, Gregg Giordano, and our lobbyist, Bonnie Basham, prevented that.

    One problem SOS has with the parks department is the one-size-fits-all mentality of the management plans. For example, our sandbar is vastly different from, say, Hillsborough State Park.

    The statement "It is disconcerting to hear continued lobbying for alcohol consumption and free-roaming dogs" is a perfect example. You mentioned unleashed dogs being "a potential bacteria source at any public swimming area." Perhaps that would matter if you were discussing a land-locked public beach. That statement regarding a sandbar in the middle of the gulf, one that completely washes over several times a month at high tide, insults one's intelligence. Show us a state health law regarding this issue. It doesn't exist.

    Regarding alcohol, are you aware the parks department sells alcohol at all special events, such as boat shows, etc.? Alcohol must be bad only if the parks department isn't making money on it.

    Why do citizens get all of the rules of a park with none of the amenities? The harsh reality of life is you don't get it both ways. Fortunately for boaters, in 15 years of sandbar usage, there has never been an alcohol-related problem or arrest. Boaters leave with many more bags of trash than they generate. Bird populations have been increasing every year with no changes in management. The Parks Department noted in our last meeting that once the nesting birds leave this area, dogs off leashes really have no impact.

    The tone of your editorial -- trust your government, they are right -- sounds like something from Mary Poppins. For every acre the DEP incorporates into the parks system, it adds thousands of dollars to its operating budget. Wake up! This is about money and power. With management costs a minimum of $116 per acre times hundreds of thousands of acres, how many classrooms would that build? How many hungry Florida children would it feed?

    When they make you pay to go to Anclote Island or put a road through your back yard, give us a call. SOS has become a powerful citizen's rights organization. One day you might be thankful that we are here.
    -- Kathleen St. Martin
    vice president, Save our Sandbar,

    An idea for the roundabout

    I have just moved to your lovely city and enjoy everything except the dirt in the middle of the roundabout. What a great place for a gigantic fountain, with jets of water leaping to the sky.
    -- Robert G. Burns, Clearwater

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