Letters to the Editor

Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2001

Community needs to get tough on those who bicycle dangerously

After reading the article written by Sharon Nusunginya, I had to double check to see if I wasn't dreaming. On June 13, as I was driving on Kalifornsky Beach Road right before Robinson's Mini Mall, I had to swerve to avoid striking two children on bikes riding on the opposite side of traffic -- both not wearing helmets and darting in and out of the lanes as cars flew by. These obviously were the same two children.

Mrs. Nusunginya, no, you are definitely not the first one to see this, and I just felt I wanted to let you know that. It makes me absolutely sick to see kids riding in high traffic areas like this, without helmets, and being careless.

I came from a town that was just starting to build bike trails in 1996, and before that it was sidewalks and streets. Here there is no excuse. There are bike trails and side roads that these kids can take instead of the highway.

The last time this happened, that I saw two pre-teens on the road with their bikes, swerving into the lanes (helmetless), I had enough and called 911 to report them. This wasn't too long after the tragic accident with the two boys that were struck and killed just outside of Kenai.

It just floors me how naive some parents must be. I know my kids have rules when it comes to biking. Basically, in a nutshell, no helmet, no bike, period.

Now granted, a car traveling 50-plus miles per hour isn't going to be very forgiving to a child on a bike even if the child is wearing a helmet, but the more protection that is worn, the better the chances of survival.

I think we as drivers need to start reporting these children, to either 911 or the police department. Those of us with cell phones need to preprogram the police and troopers' phone numbers on our phones, pull over and make the call when we see kids operating their bicycles in the roadways unsafely.

Better yet, somehow come together with some sort of deterrent for kids who do not wear their helmets when biking; hmmm, maybe make it a law?

I know, ugh, another law. But I feel this is going to be the only answer to this problem. Make a pretty hefty fine for the parents for kids under the age of 18 who are seen and reported, and I guarantee you, you will start seeing less and less kids on their bikes on the roads helmetless.

Another suggestion: Have cops rotating a "bike" schedule during the summer, where they actually bike around town instead of in their patrol cars. This was another thing that was done back in my hometown, and it was pretty effective.

Also, maybe have people donate old or used helmets to the police departments for those that cannot afford a new one.

There are tons of ways to avoid this problem. We as a community just need to take the action and do it.

Parents, please pay attention to your kids when they use their bikes, make sure they are riding in accordance with the traffic laws, and are safe guarded with a helmet.

As Mrs. Nusunginya said, and she is 100 percent correct, some child (again) is going to be seriously hurt and or killed if you don't. Thanks for listening.

Kara Steele, Kenai

Jet Skis on small lakes pose danger to wildlife, humans

I walked from my house last night to check on a pair of loons and their chick on Sports Lake. They were singing wildly, and I assumed something was wrong. But, to my pleasure, it was simply a family outing with a lot of noise. The loons were alone, undisturbed and seemingly safe.

I stayed and watched for a few minutes then walked back to my house 200 feet from the lake. When I got home I heard a Jet Ski coming fast. I looked back and saw the machine bearing down on my side of the lake. His line of travel had to have taken him across the area where the loon family was last swimming. With a sliding, almost acrobatic maneuver, the Jet Ski swerved to avoid the bank, reversed his direction and sped away. I ran back to the lake and saw no birds. They had vanished. I don't know if they swam to safety or were run over by the Jet Ski. It is hard to imagine them escaping so quickly with a chick in tow.

The Jet Skis on Sports Lake have become more than a noisy nuisance. They travel from across the half-mile wide lake in less than 30 seconds. That's over 60 miles an hour!

And it is not just wildlife they endanger. There are dozens of children and adults who canoe, kayak, tube, wade, swim and fish on the lake. I wonder how far last night's Jet Ski would have tumbled if the driver had fallen during his high-speed antics. What if one of our children had been in the way when hundreds of pounds of steel and plastic careened across the yard?

It is only a matter of time before someone gets hurt or worse.

I have called Alaska State Troopers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Each passes the buck to the other. No one can tell me if there are speed limits. There certainly should be. And I am sure there are laws against harassing loons or any other wildlife for that matter.

Sports Lake reminds me of a park. Children and adults play here every day. Most respect each others' space and quiet enjoyment. Imagine if this "park" were grass and trees and someone on a motorcycle raced across the park at 60 miles and hour. He'd be arrested, fined and probably put in jail. We need laws like that on our small lakes.

Bill Hutchinson, Soldotna

Little League teaches how game played is as important as winning

While I know there are several people who share my opinion, I am perfectly aware that there are others who don't. A difference of opinion is healthy and can be invigorating as well. It stimulates the mind and causes one to think. This could be a good thing.

So can competition.

Friendly competition is something our country has thrived on for centuries, and is a favorite pastime of just about anyone alive. We foster it in our children, yet are amazed when these same kids pop up with "You suck!" Where is the happy medium? It's all in the teaching.

I am as guilty as the next person of wanting to jump in someone's face and argue a point at the top of my lungs until we come to blows. Of course, I have never actually made it to the last point before my common sense kicks in, something I am extremely grateful for. I pride myself in never taking the offensive, never actually doing what I want to by jumping right in someone's face. I teach the same tolerance to my kids.

So, what is my point? I don't expect, or even want, everyone to "just get along" a la Rodney King. I don't want to go so far as to insist that if you can't put your money where your mouth is, don't play. What I want to do is this: Applaud the best coaches in Kenai.

No, they are not the high school coaches, or the middle school or even the elementary school coaches, although I am sure there are some good ones. These are those Kenai Little League coaches who give more than their time (though they give amazing amounts of that as well) and teach our kids to play with their hearts and souls, not just their skill. They are coaches like Jennifer Jensen.

This is our second year playing with Coach Jen, and I would put my son on her team for as many years as she coaches. She has an amazing patience and instills a true love for the game in our boys. That is the most important thing. And that is something we parents on opposite sides of the field don't always agree on.

Yes, this is baseball. Yes, three outs are three outs no matter how you slice it.

However, this is also Little League. These are 9- and 10-year-old boys who look to us for their guidance, who look at how we handle things and how we achieve things. They are our future, not just all players, who need to learn from us that there is a time, and place, to scream, yell and fight for our way.

Rules are made for a reason. It is certain that our rules differ from yours a little bit. It is also certain that there will be disagreements concerning those differences. It is how we work them out that will get noticed by these little souls that we are shaping.

I, for one, certainly want my kid to emulate Coach Jen, with her quiet approach, her reverence for the rules and her willingness to compromise when approached in a civil manner.

Coach Jen, you go ahead and put my name down on your willing board member list. We need more coaches like you, and I certainly want you to continue the awesome job you have done coaching my son for the past two years. I will do what it takes to show my support. It's time for me to put my money where my mouth is. Anyone else care to join?

Elizabeth McDonald Mother of the "Big Mac" Kenai

Flowers at senior center in Sterling target of thieves

Thanks to a generous donation from the Sterling Greenhouse, the Sterling Senior Center has some beautiful hanging baskets and flowers planted at the center. Every year the greenhouse has been generous in making sure that the center has beautiful arrangements for all to enjoy.

It appears that someone else wanted to enjoy these baskets as well, because June 21 two of these beautiful arrangements were taken from our premises.

This is not the first time the flowers at the senior center have been targeted. With the exception of last year, our baskets and flower boxes have been the target of theft for four years.

This is a discouraging act and does not speak well for our community in which many take pride. If anyone has any information they would like to share on this, please call the center at 262-6808.

Judy Warren, director Sterling Area Senior Citizens

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