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Sports keeps teens on right track

The American Women's National Soccer Team has recently won the World Cup soccer match. It has just won the hearts of a hundred-million American fans who watched these teams display sportsmanship, courage, teamwork and fair play.

Every one of these female athletes started at a local soccer field, park or playground. Every one of these female athletes had parents or adult coaches to supervise, instruct and teach them.

Youth activities teach significant lessons in life. We are fortunate to have Mayor David Fischer and Lee Metzger, head of Leisure Services. They are working hard to make sure the city and school systems are not dropping sports programs, and are working even harder to provide parks and playgrounds for our young people to have adult-supervised activities as a positive outlet in life.

Fischer and Metzger realize that youth sports teach kids the importance of respecting themselves, their teammates and opposing teams. Youth activities teach responsibility, planning ahead and achieving goals by hard work. These future adults learn confidence, character, rules, respect, decision-making, family values and right from wrong from their parents, coaches and adult role models.

By increasing the parks and playgrounds and sports programs in St. Petersburg, Fischer and Metzger have provided an opportunity for adult volunteers to provide over 1-million hours each year to teach these kids leadership, communication skills, self-control, how to work within the system and to play by the rules. They are being taught how to not join gangs or turn to crime and destroy property in our neighborhoods. This is all made possible because the city chose to provide the necessary space for these youth activities.

Here are some shocking statistics about our teenagers. Boys who participate in sports are 90 percent less likely to be involved in crimes, drugs, gangs or to drop out of school or use alcohol and cigarettes. Girls who participate in sports are 90 percent less likely to have unwanted teen pregnancies or become involved with drugs, alcohol or gangs also. Boys and girls who are involved in sports are three times more likely to graduate from high school in St. Petersburg.

Mayor Fischer has taken the necessary leadership role on this issue. With the help of Lee Metzger, City Council has worked to find "a home" for thousands of teens who need youth activities and family in their lives during their crucial juvenile years. We all must realize that any investment in family activities is not an expense. It is an investment to prevent vandalism, drugs and crime!

I thank the mayor and the City Council every time I see lights on a ball field and realize that our youths have an athletic field for a destination rather than joining a gang or buying a can of spray paint for vandalism. These lights do not represent an expense to the city, but rather a sign that our youth are not being pursued by the police. These nighttime youth activities keep our young people off the street and under adult supervision. They are learning leadership, teamwork and rules necessary to become productive members of our community.

Mark A. Sibley, M.D.,

president,

Save Busch Athletic Complex

St. Petersburg

Common sense puts safety ahead of beauty

Re: Low bridge could be matter of life or death, letter, July 25.

The letter writer, a director of the Isla del Sol Owners Association, says that lives will be endangered at Isla del Sol if a high, fixed bridge is installed on the Pinellas Bayway between St. Petersburg and St. Pete Beach. Yet, all the evidence points to a high bridge as the safest alternative.

The hospitals (Bayfront Center, All Children's, St. Anthony's and Palms of Pasadena) are located on the mainland. Residents of Isla del Sol are already on the mainland side of the proposed bridge and can get to safety quickly if a medical emergency or hurricane evacuation occurs. People living on St. Pete Beach must get across the bridge first.

David Bilodeau, director of Emergency Management for Pinellas County, recommends a high, fixed bridge because it is safer and more reliable during emergency evacuation. Chuck Kerns, director of Fire and Management Medical Services, prefers a high bridge to avoid delays to fire equipment and ambulances, especially those going from St. Pete Beach to the mainland.

There are only 1,412 registered voters at Isla del Sol versus 7,519 on St. Pete Beach. Peak transient occupancy is estimated at 5,000 to 7,000 for Isla del Sol versus 30,000 to 40,000 for St. Pete Beach.

A recent survey showed that over 75 percent of patients arriving at hospital emergency rooms on the mainland come by automobile. If the bridge is open and traffic backed up, they must wait because they cannot contact the bridge tender.

The Department of Transportation was willing to construct access roads north and south of a high bridge ramp to avoid inconvenience and delays to traffic at Isla del Sol. The roads were to be located adjacent to the golf course, so IDSOA rejected them.

Safety is an important consideration in the bridge decision. A high fixed bridge will cause minor inconvenience to the golf course and residents at Isla del Sol. A drawbridge will pose serious safety hazards to the much larger number of residents on St. Pete Beach. Safety issues clearly favor construction of a high fixed bridge.

Joseph A. Mahon, St. Petersburg

Moon memories remind us of our failures too

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