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Most off-road bikers are responsible

One can easily be baffled when trying to discern the criteria the decisionmakers of the Florida Department of Transportation use to choose their battles. Apparently, the newest target are the "outlaw bikers," who ride their off-road motorcycles along the roadside at Fourth Street N and Interstate 275 near St. Petersburg.

Somehow, our actions (circuitously riding our bikes along a few hundred yards of dirt road and scrub trail) have been deemed menacing. However, other longstanding activities that routinely occur on this strip of sand continue unchecked (fishermen wading among mud, oyster shells, broken bottles and sting rays, drunks launching their boats and roaring through the shallows, mullet netters straddling the bridge railings while making their throws, gay men cruising for sex partners, derelict drug addicts taking up residence under the bridge).

The signs that will now be posted along this strip will warn potential riders to reconsider or risk being charged with trespassing. Perhaps the movers and shakers at the Florida DOT can't get beyond the image of hell-raising biker Marlon Brando in The Wild One.

To you we say, please educate yourselves about the nuances of our sport before choosing to enforce such a rash policy. We are not holding motorcycle jousting contests, dragging poor saps through the streets with ropes, molesting the city fathers' daughters, robbing mom-and-pop grocery stores, or declaring anarchy in rural towns.

The vast majority of off-road bikers are armored head to toe with protective gear. Most are responsible, conscientious, outdoor-loving citizens. Is there risk involved in off-road motorcycling? Sure. However, if there is a thrill or pleasure-producing activity in life that doesn't involve a certain element of risk, we are unable to name it at this time.

We just want a little place to ride. We ask not for the special consideration or amenities given to other sports and leisure activities sponsored by the state, such as boat ramps, RV sites, tennis courts, bike trails, horseshoe pits, barbecue pits, nature trails, shuffleboard courts, skate parks or golf courses.

We just want to be left alone. Obviously, this is too much to ask.

Todd Maynard, Chad Jatko and David Hutton, St. Petersburg

The addicted and hopeless need kindness

Re: I chose to be homeless, as do many, letter, March 13.

The writer deserves our respect for turning his life around _ getting off drugs and the streets.

I, too, am a recovering addict and, yes, my addictions and lifestyle were my choice. And, like the writer, to escape my addictions, I had to turn my back on who I was and see my addicted self with hatred, even loathing. But as my recovery continued, my strident rejection of my addicted self gradually dissolved into compassion and understanding and, yes, even love. That's when I became able to help other people who are still trapped by their addictions.

Despite the writer's protestations, he desperately needed the kindness of the churches and individuals who fed and clothed him when he was blindly ensnared in the never-never land, the unreality of drugs. This love, freely given to the lost and hopeless, didn't enable him to pursue his addictions. It simply kept him alive until the day he finally developed the insight to see that it was all his choice _ and that he had the power to change! I just hope he continues his recovery and will one day see his still-homeless brothers and sisters with compassion, not condemnation.

I thank God that I can love the writer equally as the man he is today and, yes, as the man he used to be. And if he slips and falls back to the streets, we will always have a place for him at our table, where he will be made welcome and can stay until the day he regains the strength to begin again.

Steve Kersker, co-chair of St. Petersburg's Homeless

Services Task Force, St. Petersburg

Another ticket tale in Pass-a-Grille

Re: Parking ticket a premature penalty? letter, March 17.

After reading the complaint of the visitor to the Pass-a-Grille Island Festival concerning an undeserved parking ticket, I felt compelled to register my own dissatisfaction with the St. Pete Beach parking policies on that same day.

I parked briefly on Pass-a-Grille Way by the park to find my assigned spot as an author participating in the Island Festival on March 2. I put a quarter in the meter to give me enough time to unload my table and books and find my space, and then returned immediately to my car to move it to a $5 all-day spot on the beach. Unfortunately, that's when I got a ticket. With a total of $25 for parking that day, I lost money participating in the festival.

One would think that there would be some consideration for the circumstances in a case like this. I had no intention of continuing in that metered spot beyond the time required to find out where I was supposed to set up my table.

The meter maid who issued the ticket was just writing it when I returned to my vehicle. She had no interest in giving consideration to any extenuating circumstances. I can assure the good people of Pass-a-Grille that after this $20 assessment I will not participate in any future festivals on St. Pete Beach. I was left with a negative feeling about the event.

Charles E. Gustafson, St. Petersburg

Money lost and found at SPIFFS event

Since a purse didn't go with my costume while I was at SPIFFS, I was carrying some money in a small coupon folder. There was nothing distinctive about it and no identification in it. When I discovered that it was lost, I reported it to lost and found. Everyone I spoke to was pleasant and helpful, but I certainly had no hope of getting it back. I was amazed and delighted when Paula Nichols, events coordinator, called to tell me it had been found.

When I picked it up, Paula introduced me to Beth Herendeen, event services manager, and said a member of her staff had turned it in. Neither of them could identify the individual who deserved my thanks.

Since I can't say thank you to one person, I want to thank all of the Bayfront Center staff. The individual who did find it should know that I am very grateful.

I have always been impressed that the Bayfront Center is able to put on an event like SPIFFS with so few problems, but now I'm even more impressed.

I can't express sufficiently my appreciation of the service they all provide.

Margaret Evans, St. Petersburg

Police used to just visit schools

Re: High school to make do with one officer, March 17.

When I graduated from high school in 1952, the only time a police officer was at school was on "career day," to talk about the job of police officer.

Yes, things have changed.

D. Alan Campbell, St Petersburg

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