Don't kill park's Australian pines | March 19, letters
Australian pines are invasive and illegal
The letter writer and other members of Friends of the Pines are misguided in their affection for Australian pines. These trees (which are not actually pines) are an invasive exotic species. It is no longer legal to buy or plant these trees because they propagate wildly, replacing native species and the wildlife they support and damaging ecosystems.
The state of Florida, its counties and municipalities have spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to eradicate this tree and other invasives like Brazilian pepper, melaleuca, and carrotwood.
When hurricanes hit Sanibel and Captiva islands several years ago, the huge, shallow-rooted Australian pines were the first to topple, blocking evacuation routes and damaging property. As a result, they are systematically being removed there and may not be replanted.
Pinellas County is right to remove Australian pines from Fort De Soto and its other environmental lands.
The county replaces the trees with native trees that give shade to visitors as well as sustenance and shelter to wildlife, and our parks and preserves will be better, healthier places as a result.
Jan Allyn, Pinellas Chapter, Florida Native Plant Society, Largo
Halt tree eradication
The Australian pines are being eradicated at Fort De Soto Park in Pinellas County and being replaced with native species such as sabal and cabbage palms.
These pines are beautiful trees that grow along the shoreline, providing shade for beachgoers and nesting areas for wildlife. It provides diversity in vegetation, which Florida sorely needs. We must put a stop to this program before our beautiful park and our "No. 1 in 2005" is damaged beyond repair.
Gloria Sterling, Tierra Verde
Beggars branch out
It's not bad enough that panhandlers stand on every island on the corner of 34th Street and 54th Avenue S, daring you to make eye contact as if to compel you to help support their alcohol and tobacco addiction. Now they've spread to the corner of 22nd Avenue S and 37th Street, where on a recent morning a grubby-looking wretch crossed the intersection to approach the driver's door of our car demanding change while my wife clutched the steering wheel in terror. It happened so quickly, it could have been an attempted car jacking or snatch and grab. Thank goodness for automatic door locks.
As we drive around our neighborhood, it is a rare occasion indeed to see a police presence which only adds to our concern for our safety. I'm sure it has been stated many times that there are public and private agencies equipped to help homeless, unemployed, addicted or mentally challenged individuals.
If they refuse to seek assistance through legal and reasonable channels, they are vagrants and should be treated as such. If for no other reason than public safety, street corners need to be free of distractions (like panhandlers) so that drivers can watch for pedestrians, U-turners, cyclists and red light runners.And for no other reason than being a taxpayer should we be able to feel safe driving in our community.
Everett Melnick, St. Petersburg
Where are all those Pinellas Trail users? | March 16, letter
Trail is a great asset
The letter writer indicated that the Pinellas Trail was a waste of money since it seemed that it was seldom used. The letter also questioned the figure of 90,000 people per month using the trail.
A friend and I rode the trail on a recent Sunday, from Seminole to Taylor Park and back, and we saw a great number of people using that part of the trail. I have ridden the trail in both directions from Seminole to its end in Tarpon Springs and to the other end at 34th Street in St. Petersburg. I find that parts of the trail are used more than other parts depending upon the area and the attractions along the trail.
It really is a beautiful trail and I'm sure the envy of people in many other parts of the country. Not only do I see bikers but also people walking the trail, parents with children and baby carriages, people with dogs and athletes running.
I seldom see anybody on the trail smoking. I also seldom see any cigarette butts on the trail. The trail is very clean and seldom with trash of any kind. I believe the trail is a great asset to our community and would vote for it again.
Robert Cooper, Seminole
Why the difference?
Can anyone explain why the Clearwater Beach, Sand Key, Treasure Island and Madeira Beach bridges are all new (or are under construction) and are toll free?
The Sand Key and Treasure Island bridges used to charge, but once the new bridge went up, they became toll free.
What makes the Pinellas Bayway bridge different from the ones mentioned, and once that is answered, why the exorbitant increase?
Larry Wyss, Tierra Verde
Kudos, Bay Pines VA
The Bay Pines VA Healthcare Center recently celebrated its 75th anniversary, and I would like to express my appreciation to the unsung heroes who continue to make Bay Pines one of the elite VA medical care facilities in this country.
I thank the caregivers who provide veteran patients with the quality care they deserve; the housekeeping staff who excellently maintain the cleanliness of the facility for patients, visitors and staff; the laundry staff who ensure that patients and staff are always provided with clean linen and uniforms; the dietary staff who provide patient meals and snacks; personnel in all supporting departments who maintain the grounds, handle waste, receive and distribute supplies and maintain essential facility operations.
I salute you all.
Jack Burlakos, U.S. Navy Vietnam War veteran, Kenneth City