March 4, 2010

SATURDAY OPINIONWant more trains? Show up Tuesday

— Let's give the Maine Department of Transportation an earful at the University of Southern Maine on Tuesday.

click image to enlarge

click image to enlarge

STAFF PHOTO BY JOHN PATRIQUIN -- Friday, January 17, 1997 --Railroad track running through Scarboro toward Old Orchard Beach.

MDOT has not yet widely publicized the fact that it is currently spending 8 months to plan the future of Maine's rail transportation system -- the Maine State Rail Plan.

Well, Maine, unless you look forward to another 50 years complaining about being at the end of the line, you should come and tell the state how to modernize rail and get more efficient transportation for Maine people and products.

States to our south are restoring more rail service, and our Legislature has come to realize that Maine roads can no-longer be kept in repair under the present gas tax funding arrangement.

Yet people out in Windham and beyond hope that MDOT will rebuild the narrow and dangerous River Road for their daily commutes in individual automobiles from rural serenity to the city.

But unused rail corridors stretch from Portland to Windham, Westbrook, Falmouth, Cumberland, Yarmouth and other suburbs. Greater Portland can either clog up its communities with cars, or restore rail service through these corridors like other U.S. metro areas are doing.

Whatever people's opinions, Maine's rail planning needs public input, not just analysis by a batch of ''experts.''

MDOT's public meeting for the Maine State Rail Plan happens Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Glickman Library's University Event Room on USM's Portland campus.

Be there, or stay stuck in traffic.

Gary Higginbottom

Portland

Willard Beach cleanup gave students free lesson

What do one television, seven buoys, nine pairs of shoes, 144 food wrappers and 1,169 cigarette butts have in common? They are just some of the items students from Westbrook High School cleaned up at Willard Beach in South Portland Sept. 17.

In conjunction with the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup, a world-wide event taking place on or around Sept. 19 of every year, our students not only cleaned up Willard Beach but logged each and every piece of trash on a data sheet.

Their sheets, along with others, will be sent to the Maine State Planning Office and the Ocean Conservancy to be compiled into a marine debris index or a international report card of sorts for our beaches and coastal waterways.

So how does a team of teachers get a group of teenagers excited about the prospect of cleaning up a beach?

We didn't. Our students became excited and intrigued about the trip from the moment we presented them with it. The students led robust discussions about marine debris and what we might find at the beach and while most of us doubted we would find a television at the beach, we were pleasantly shocked to find one in the Willard Beach parking lot.

We spent a chilly Thursday morning cleaning up Willard Beach, collecting over 30 pounds of trash and educating local residents about why we were there, and they, in turn, educated us about the area's history and current issues affecting the beach.

We would like to congratulate our students on a job well done. We are very proud of you and we are looking forward to our next cleanup outing.

Natalie Bell and Nicole Presley

Westbrook High School

Westbrook

Getting vet Purple Heart a fine tribute for service

I want to thank John and Bunny O'Leary for their incredible kindness and tireless efforts in honoring our son, Spec. Michael J.A. Payeur, on Sept. 12 during the Southern Maine Portland HOG Chapter's annual Hometown Heroes Parade. I also want to thank Auburn Mayor John Jenkins for his support and participation in this very special day for our family.

This event honors the special people who have made the choice to be America's First Responders; fire, police, military, etc.

Spec. Payeur was selected by SMPHOG to be this year's distinguished guest of honor. The motorcycle ride passes several firehouses and police stations in southern Maine on a 60-mile route to tip their hats to these brave individuals.

After being wounded in combat in Iraq over two years ago during his second tour, Mike never received his Purple Heart medal. As much as we've had to deal with in his recovery and the impact this experience has had on our family, we had no energy left to work to get it for him.

John and Bunny selflessly took on this task themselves, using the parade event to surprise him with it, working with Sen.Susan Collins' office to acquire his medal.

Mayor Jenkins spoke beautifully about Mike's service to his country and kindly brought much to this day.

It's hard to find the words to express our gratitude to these wonderful people because a hug and ''thank you'' just don't seem enough, but thank you all the same.

Pam Payeur

Biddeford

Tribute to kindly duo shows what work they do

I know that newspapers must cover the latest grisly murder, fiscal crisis in Augusta or health care debacle in Washington, so it was with great pleasure that I read your recent article ''Turning boys into men'' (Sept. 16).

For those of us living or summering in the Lovell area, we are well aware of the treasure called the Mason Family, and it is amazing that gentle giant Dave Mason, still sharp at 92, was just 2 when Agawam Kezar was founded in Raymond in 1919.

His smile and wisdom have guided generations of young Maine campers, helped to raise a fine family and even helped found the local tennis tournament that bears his name.

And behind every great man is a great woman, so it was no surprise to see Peg Mason working at the Lovell UCC harvest dinner last week just as she has worked at countless local benefits over the years.

With residents like the Masons, and thousands of others who work at fabulous day camps and overnight camps from Kittery to Madawaska, our state can have a bright future.

Maybe we should add ''Camperland'' to the titles of Pine Tree State and Vacationland?

Bert Kendall

Cumberland

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