As an exiled Alaskan currently living in Texas, I was dismayed and appalled by Grace Merkes' prejudiced and narrow-minded comments regarding the National Scenic Byway status up for vote at the most recent assembly meeting for the Sterling Highway.
Ms. Merkes, have you driven through Dallas lately, or Los Angeles, or perhaps Pittsburgh, Pa.? Maybe the stretch of highway connecting Newark and Elizabeth, N.J., or New Haven and Bridgeport, Conn.? If you take the time to look outside the great and beautiful state you live in, you will see miles of hideous, traffic-congested, telephone pole-lined, trash-filled asphalt. What you have instead are miles of beautiful, pristine wilderness. You can see eagles at the edge of the river, a coyote gingerly walking on the ice, beautiful vistas and acres of wild lands. You are unbelievably lucky, Ms. Merkes, and you would be wise to begin preserving what you have now so that your grandchildren might have some of the same benefits you enjoy.
On a purely practical level, having National Scenic Byway status allows communities to apply for thousands of dollars available each year as discretionary grants to help maintain and beautify your road! The award total for 2003 alone was $26,327,750. Sure would be nice to have just a little slice of that. I encourage you to visit the Web site and do a little research http://www.bywaysonline.org/. A little knowledge goes a long way.
Last but not least, Alaska is my home. Although I don't live there at the moment, I miss it every day, and what I miss are the people and the landscape. It is an amazing place and needs our help as a steward to protect it from misuse and neglect. Hats off to all those who voted for the designation and my fingers are crossed for the next vote!
Lisa C. Tremaine
(Formerly and in the future of Kenai)
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