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Vehicles ignore law, park on causeway

Letters to the Editor
Published August 22, 2006


The journey to Clearwater Beach via the south side of the Memorial Causeway, designated the "Great Florida Birding Trail," is a pleasure for walkers and bikers alike, with a world-class view of the bay and a pristine, grassy shoreline worthy of close inspection. At least it used to be.

Now, more than a half-mile of this shoreline has been converted into an unpaved, unsupervised, dirt parking lot, with as many as 500 vehicles parking in five rows from the low bridge crossing to the beach all the way back to Island Way.

The grass is shredded, the surface is dust or mud, trash abounds, and oil leakage from vehicles is a visual blight and washes into the bay. The shoreline has visibly deteriorated in the past 12 months from pollution. Vehicles park within 4 feet of the bay waters, with bird sanctuaries not far offshore being polluted.

The birding trail has become a roadway.

I have seen as many as four tour buses parked simultaneously on the strip, and semitrailer trucks and recreational vehicles are welcome. Commercial vehicles open mobile businesses here, selling trinkets and food. Never have I seen any of them ticketed.

Parking limit signs are ignored by everyone, including the Clearwater police. A few months ago, walking back from the beach through the sea of vehicles, checking out Toyotas instead of turtles, I asked a police officer sitting in his vehicle at Island Way why the vehicles parked on the causeway were never ticketed. He shrugged his shoulders and said, "They have to park somewhere."

On June 4, the St. Petersburg Times published an article wherein city officials once again expressed regret that the oft-discussed beach parking remains an empty promise (Clearwater wakes up to parking possibilities). It is noteworthy that no mention was made of this Memorial Causeway parking lot that city officials have quietly allowed to flourish.

This is their solution to inadequate beach parking. It is not advertised, it is not patrolled, and there is obviously an agreement between the City Council and the Police Department that vehicles parked here will not be ticketed.

It is illegal, unethical and disrespectful to selectively enforce parking regulations.

I wonder if officials at the Florida Department of Transportation, which is responsible for maintenance of the causeway as a state highway, are aware of and approve of this pollution and misuse of public property.

The legacy of this Clearwater City Council is to be remembered as the elected officials who failed to create legal beach parking and who have deliberately polluted the bay waters and converted the once-beautiful Memorial Causeway into a third-class, unpaved parking lot.

These are the same people who are going to ask Clearwater voters to trust them to redevelop the Clearwater bluff. Let's hope they become better stewards first.

Arnie Shal, Clearwater

Mother's story offers inspiration for others

Re: She's come a long way, story, July 23.

What a heartwarming story, to read about a mother's love, a caring place such as Grace House and all the angels who helped this loving young woman to make it.

Ophelia could have taken other roads, but her love for her beautiful child gave her the courage and wisdom to seek help. She wanted a good life with her son, and Kevin will be so proud of his mommy for accomplishing that.

Sometimes in life, we can make choices when we're very young that might be made differently if we had it to do over. As we all know, we can't always do it over, but Ophelia turned it all around with determination to do the right thing. The picture says a thousand words: the unconditional, warm, happy love between mother and child. That's the way it should be.

God bless your beautiful family and all those who helped along the way.

J. Briscoe, Clearwater

YOUR VOICE COUNTS

We invite readers to write letters for publication. To send a letter from your computer, go to www.sptimes.com/letters. If you prefer, you may instead fax your letter to us at (727) 445-4119, or mail it to Letter to the Editor, St. Petersburg Times, 710 Court St., Clearwater, FL 33756.

Letters should be brief and must include the writer's name, city of residence, mailing address and phone number. Letters may be edited for clarity, taste and length. We regret that not all letters can be printed.

[Last modified August 22, 2006, 06:19:02]


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