PETA would bridge Friendship barriers with a catch. Sea kittens

Just when you thought there wasn't much amusing in the news, comes a funny from your friends at PETA.

Ready for the Sea Kitten Bridge?

PETA's latest publicity stunt went off during an earnest effort to save a local treasure, the ribbon of concrete connecting Pinellas and Hillsborough over Tampa Bay. The quandary: Do we spend $15 million to fix the old Gandy Bridge, a converted mecca for cyclists and runners until last year, when age shut it down?

The former car-traffic bridge reopened a decade ago as a pedestrian route renamed the Friendship Trail Bridge. The converted 53-year-old span was getting 600,000 visits a year from enthusiastic riders, skaters and strollers until the discovery of structural decay abruptly closed it last year. Since then, hundreds have crammed into public meetings hoping to save the bridge.

The problem? The economy. How do you persuade anyone to spend $15 million to breathe 10 years of life back into the bridge — even if that's only $2 million more than it would cost to demolish a very cool, much-loved park?

So, you're thinking, how do those pro-puppy zealots over at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals fit into this one?

Count on PETA to do anything to make a splash, so to speak. While PETA advocates for some excellent pro-animal, pro-empathy issues, it's also true no cause is too ridiculous, no spokesperson too scantily clad, to get our attention.

Actual recent PETA headlines:

PETA bugged by President Obama's fly swatting

PETA wants to make tofu flavored with George Clooney's sweat

And possibly my all-time favorite: PETA says Iowa State Fair should use nondairy spread instead of butter for Michael Jackson sculpture.

Okay, I am solidly against treating animals badly. I'm a vegetarian, even. But sometimes an over-the-top PETA stance can make me want to eat meat. Raw. With my hands.

Case in point: Last week, PETA helpfully offered a "win-win solution" to save the bridge. PETA would "contribute the funds necessary to keep this community treasure open" in exchange for:

1. Renaming it the Sea Kitten Memorial Trail Bridge to help "encourage children to think of fish as 'sea kittens,' " and no, I did not make that up.

2. And this is the biggie, ending more than a half-century of rich local tradition by banning fishing on the old Gandy.

PETA's letter was addressed to Frank Miller, executive director of a citizens group called the Friendship Trail Corporation. He points out that the counties actually own the bridge, but if asked, the group's position would be thanks but no thanks.

He and other supporters have hopes for saving the bridge anyway, particularly given the recent show of support. Tapping into federal funds is the option they especially like.

The Hillsborough County Commission considers the fate of the bridge today. Pinellas takes up the issue Aug. 18.

By now, PETA has surely moved on to bigger, badder butter sculptures, but maybe it did us a favor, even if it didn't mean to. It reminded us of a sunny 2.6-mile stretch over our waters, and that some things are worth trying just about anything to save.

PETA would bridge Friendship barriers with a catch. Sea kittens 08/04/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 4, 2009 10:53pm]

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