Letters to the Editor

Posted: Monday, August 26, 2002

Campaign to get kids off ATVs misguided, not about safety at all

Did anyone else read the article in Thursday's paper regarding the "New campaign: ATVs unsafe for kids"? I cannot believe what those people are attempting to do.

The consumer and "environmental" groups are trying to say that children under 16 should be kept off ATVs, snowmachines and personal watercraft. They are trying to slip this law in rather sneaky, saying "ATVs are still unsafe," when in actuality, after reading more closely, the "environmental" groups are the ones making the stink. Those people would love to take that privilege away from kids period, even to those who are very responsible teen drivers.

This, of course, all in the name of "Mother Earth" and the protection of their "pristine" trails. Their loyalty doesn't lie in the children's well-being, it's their own. The numbers that they printed, ATV-related deaths between 1994 and 1998, ranged from one to three per year, not bad considering how many people and kids use them. The nonfatal injuries (which don't include ER visits, only admissions to a hospital due to accidents) were now at 112 between '94 and '99. This rose from an 87 count.

They did not, however, state that all these injuries were solely of unlicensed drivers, under the age of 16, they failed to mention this included adults who do have licenses to drive. So to me, that was a very misleading statement, meant to confuse and give people a skewed view of the statistics.

Adults have accidents on ATVs, too, not just kids. I believe that most all of the kids that drive snowmachines and four-wheelers are very responsible little people. There are always that select few who are not made to wear a helmet when going out on a trail or out to spin their treads or tires. Those are the ones whose parents need to be hit hard with a ticket for allowing their children to ride unprotected.

I, for one, am going to be writing to our senators and legislators about this, because they are trying to take away the one fun thing that our kids enjoy in the winter and summer months.

The environmentalists are trying to slide this "concern" into a law that would drastically affect everyone who owns an ATV, snowmachine or PWC, whether for sport or for transportation use, as in the outlying villages. We need to fight this one hard, or we will lose another thing that we cherish, all in the name of "pristine wilderness."

Safety should always be a concern, and it should be enforced. However, to just take something away like that because of an age number is ridiculous! Remember your upcoming snowmachine trips that you have planned with your kids, and now imagine them with a law in place that prohibits children under 16 riding any ATV. Start writing!

Kara Steele


Dogs seem to take on personality of owners -- for better or worse

It's amazing how like the owners a dog can be. This simple thought occurred to me after spending some time in Chinitna Bay recently. We have neighbors whose dog truly believes it owns the beach. As we sit around the creek in front of our property (which has been in my partner's family since the mid-'60s), the dog barks incessantly and will actually slink toward us with obvious malice.

We had been on an adventure down the beach and were returning past these very same neighbors, when their big white dog came tearing toward us, teeth bared and snapping viciously. Moments later, the family matriarch came over to complain that we were going too fast (we were not).

She further instructed us as to proper passage by their place, by slowing down so the dog could sniff us, as if it were her beach, and pleasing her dog were the only real goal. We got a number of good laughs out of that one -- and were not the only neighbors who heard that demand.

While she claimed we were going too fast and might hurt her dog, as I recall, not one of the bystanders tried to actually control the dog and call it back to safety. It felt like there was almost a wish that the dog would get hit, so they could have one more reason to hate. It felt a little like that slinking action I noted earlier in the dog.

My dog, who would probably rather be giving a full body dog-hug than worrying about a pesky bear on the beach, somehow resembles its owner. I, in responding to the same event, chose a scramble through the alders rather than moving any closer to the encroaching visitor; thereby almost creating of myself lively bait for the young brown bear.

My partner's dog is eager, loyal and active, just like he is, and his mom's beloved canine sure remains calm and assertive in a pinch. All are endowed with a lightness of heart that helps provide humor and perspective to so many of life's little situations.

These neighbors have a history of rude, self-centered behavior, including placing stakes on the beach that other neighbors have had to dodge while landing their planes, in order to avoid disaster.

It may be true that I'm not the brightest dog on the beach when it comes to bear situations, but I would never actually wish harm upon another in order to feel better about myself. And neither would my dog.

Marty Hapeman


The Peninsula Clarion welcomes letters to the editor. All letters should include the writer's name, address and phone number. Anonymous letters will not be printed. Letters may be faxed to the Clarion at 283-3299 or e-mailed to clarion@alaska.net.

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