Sarbanes' legislation would improve parks with mass...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

August 22, 1998

Sarbanes' legislation would improve parks with mass transit

Your editorial underscoring the increased overcrowding in the national parks acknowledges that steps must be taken to handle the traffic or park visitors and resources will suffer ("Overcrowding in paradise," July 27). The editorial, however, neglected to mention that one of Maryland's own elected officials, U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes, is in the forefront of developing a solution.

It has become increasingly clear that many of the parks are experiencing an overload. Visits have reached as high as 269 million annually, a figure sure to increase. The long lines of cars winding their way to some of the most beautiful sights on earth treat their occupants to the gridlock that they had traveled to escape. Some of our best loved national parks register air pollution levels rivaling those of downtown urban centers. The result is frustrated, often angry visitors and a degradation of the natural and historic resources that people come to experience.

To help resolve this problem, Mr. Sarbanes has introduced a farsighted bill, the Transit in the Park Act. Authorizing $50 million per year over the next four years, it would allow the National Park Service and other federal agencies to work closely with state and local governments and the private sector to develop a wide range of projects that could improve visitor access, reduce crowding and protect resources in national parks, refuges and other sensitive public lands.

These funds would draw revenues from non-federal partners to develop such projects as light rail lines, clean-fuel bus and van pool services, bike trail connections and pedestrian walkways.

Mr. Sarbanes' leadership has made clear that mass transit choices aren't suited only to urban areas, but also to our treasured public lands.

Thomas Kiernan

William W. Millar

Washington

The writers are, respectively, president of the National Parks and Conservation Association and president of the American Public Transit Association.

Filth on our streets indicts city officials

Regarding vagrants ("A city tradition and homelessness collide," Aug. 14), I can remember when Baltimore City had public restrooms and even public showers.

I can put up with the trash, because that is cleaned up periodically. But when public officials tolerate filthy, unhealthy conditions, it is an indictment of the officials.

Leo A. Williams

Baltimore

Israel and rescue unit getting deserved attention

Israel is finally getting the good press it has long deserved. Its acts of mercy all around the world which, though not always asked for, are often furnished by Israel's crack military search and rescue unit, a unit of skilled soldiers with specialized cutting tools, doctors and sniffing dogs raring to go.

The unit has honed a reputation for readiness to rush to rescue disaster victims anywhere in the world. It proved it anew recently, when it went straight from the airport to the blast site in Nairobi and plucked at least three survivors and 26 bodies from the rubble.

It is not surprising. For years, ties between Israel and Kenya have been strong. Israel had used that country as a refueling stop and fall-back base during the July 1976 Entebbe rescue, in which Israeli commandoes freed hijacked prisoners held by Palestinians in Uganda.

In addition to its domestic efforts, such as aiding Israeli survivors of Iraqi Scud missile attacks during the 1991 Persian Gulf war, the search and rescue unit has seen overseas action in earthquakes in Mexico and Armenia, a fire in Turkey and a refugee crises in Rwanda.

These stalwart rescuers also helped dig through the wreckage of Israel's embassy in Buenos Aires, devastated in a 1992 bombing that killed 29 people.

The Israeli team's ability to move fast and sleep rough is an outgrowth of the country's military doctrine, one that relies on citizen soldiers to drop what they're doing and be at their posts within 24 hours.

For these brave and noble men, most of whom are reservists, each operation is a mitzvah, a good deed required by Jewish law. And while they never seek publicity, its nice to see that they, and Israel, are getting the good press that is long overdue.

Elie Fier

Baltimore

Custom-made newspapers can help conserve trees

Congratulations to Randallstown tree pruner Michael Cotter and to Sun writer M. Dion Thompson and the editor for "Climbing to the top" (Aug. 15), about Mr. Cotter's ascent to world champion climber by being "cool at the end of his rope."

Plaudits aside, I want to suggest that Sun readers and editors consider saving enormous numbers of trees, Mr. Cotter's usual work subject, before they are depleted.

Clearly, recycling has helped with our use of pulpwood for newspapers. However, the newspapers could help even more by sending people only the sections they want or need. I can never remember using a real estate section (there were three in Sunday's paper), automobile section or sports section, except for the occasional fishing or sailing news.

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