This is written in response to your Aug. 10 editorial (“Footpaths should not replace rail development”) that suggested converting rails to trails may not always be in the best interests of the state. But there is an option you allude to that needs more consideration: Rails with Trails. The Kennebec River Rail Trail, Augusta to Gardiner, is a great example.

Rails with trails could reduce highway congestion, improve community health and enhance Maine’s many recreational opportunities for tourists. New corridors are not being created. Expanding the use of existing corridors offers a real win-win.

Maine is special because our recreational use statute almost eliminates landowner liability. This law has been upheld many times by Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court. The two of us worked with the Legislature in 2005 to make it explicit that the law protects rail operators from liability should a user be injured, or even killed, on a trail located on railroad property.

For nearly two centuries, rail operators have resisted allowing the public to use their rail corridors in the mistaken belief that the best way to avoid accidents and save lives would be to keep the public out of their corridors.

Yet the opposite has been shown to be the case. Each year 500 people are killed trespassing in rail corridors.

Has anyone not walked the rails, trespassing in a rail corridor, sometime in their life? No one has ever been killed in the 1,000-plus miles of rail-with-trail corridors that already exist in the nation. If trails were added to all American rail corridors, statistics suggest that we’d annually save more than 450 of the lives lost.

John Andrews
president, Eastern Trail Alliance, Cumberland and York counties
Saco

Peter Garrett
president, Kennebec Messalonskee Trails, Greater Waterville
Winslow
 

Restaurant reviews often too much like each other 

I have been living in Maine for the past several years and I feel most compelled to write about the reviews that N.L. English has written.

Portland has the most restaurants per capita, and therefore richly deserves the title of “foodie city.” Still, I simply do not know why or how the author can honestly write about establishments that consistently get awarded 3-4 stars every week! It is seldom that you see 2 or fewer stars. I have also rarely read anything with 4-5 stars as well.

How can one read a mixed review about an eating establishment and then see a star rating of 3 to 3½ stars? It just doesn’t add up.

When readers start to peruse the column, they automatically go to see the star rating. Then the reader will start to read and find out that the contents of the review are redundant, with the same observations that the author writes about all the time.

The author will write more about decor and prices than a clear and concise description of the preparation of the food. Is it that their taste buds are just tired and indifferent to how the plates served to them should truly be? Or is it they are afraid of repercussions of any type? The column reads like a lazy act of indifference.

Historically the Sunday paper will review a restaurant that is in the category of “fine dining,” but I don’t see how a pub can rate the same as a restaurant that features food that is prepared with imagination and totally different ingredients. If an eating establishment gets a poor review, it will ultimately help them to step up to the plate and serve it right. There is an epicurean divide going on here.

I believe that the people in Portland and the surrounding area deserve better. Times are tough; if reviewers cannot write concise and brutally honest columns, then I believe that they have no business writing anymore.

Elizabeth Shike
Westbrook 

Don’t point fingers, give pats on backs 

Let’s call Tony Payne’s column “What’s Wrong with Maine.”

Of course, he has to get in line behind our field of aspiring gubernatorial candidates and half of the mainstream media.

I’m tired of the constant din of criticism coming from this crowd telling us why we would not want to live or do business in Maine. That’s just what we need in a governor — someone who announces to the world how unfairly Maine treats its citizens and how unfriendly it is to business.

I direct these detractors to the Brookings Institution action plan, “Charting Maine’s Future,” which states “(A) state with much promise seems stuck: surprisingly pessimistic about its future.” Yet the study’s authors see Maine as “a special place possessed of outstanding, truly enviable, potential.”

Maine doesn’t need naysayers but cheerleaders. To this end I compliment Ron Bancroft on his excellent piece on Hussey Seating’s successes, seemingly in spite of doing business in Maine for the last 175 years.

I think it’s time we heard about the Hussey Seatings, L.L. Beans and Cianbros of Maine — solid proof that Maine isn’t such a bad place to live and do business after all. It’s really not as bad as we’ve been told.

Kurt Woltersdorf
Sanford 

Maine senators cast votes the way most people want 

On Aug. 8, Thom Locke wrote a letter to the editor detailing how Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe vote more in liberal ways than most Republicans. Mr. Locke says, “I suggest that (Sen. Collins) votes the way the people of Maine wanted when they voted for her with the idea that she was a Republican.”

Collins and Snowe are renowned nationwide for being among the most moderate Republicans in Congress. They’ve been that way since they were first elected to the Senate, back in 1994 and 1996. That’s why the people of Maine voted for them.

That’s why so many Democrats — myself included, and many of my left-leaning friends — voted for Collins and Snowe the last times they ran (2008 and 2006, respectively).

That’s why the last time both were up for election, they took every county in the state, including the most liberal ones, Cumberland and York.

Both are examples of how bipartisanship can work for the nation, and are examples for both Democrats and Republicans. Simply voting with whatever the majority of the party wants won’t help the country, and I hope more congresspeople follow Sens. Collins’ and Snowe’s precedent, and vote their mind rather than what the party wants.

Anthony Emerson
Portland 

Portland’s Festival of Nations far more diverse than story 

It is with sadness that I read Edward Murphy’s article on the Festival of Nations in the Aug. 1 Sunday Telegram (“Where everyone fits right in”).

My son lives in a community residence in Portland. One of his staff is a beautiful black man who has become part of our family. He is a family man devoted to his wonderful wife and three beautiful daughters.

He has come to this country to build a better life for himself and his family. He has shared many wonderful stories about his culture and his journey to this country, and some sad stories about his life here because of his color. He has taught us much about love and acceptance.

He works very hard. He has a wonderful sense of humor. He is an accomplished drummer. He is humble, smart and proud. He has much to teach us all.

The other staffer at the residence is a wonderful man who comes from Nepal. He is a caring husband and father whose family is back in Nepal. He is also an accomplished drummer. Through him we have learned much about his country and customs.

A story about the Festival of Nations highlighting a woman who makes numerous “redneck items,” accompanied by pictures lacking in diversity, should be an embarrassment to this newspaper.

I take offense at the term “redneck.” I feel it has an insulting and negative connotation. The paper missed the whole intent of this festival by ignoring stories and pictures of the very diverse races, cultures and customs we are fortunate to have in Greater Portland.

Jean Haron
Cape Elizabeth