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Example of an Effective Letter to the Editor

By TomConnors - Posted on 13 September 2009

Letter: Rail Trail fears unfounded

Wed Aug 01, 2007, 03:55 PM EDT

Georgetown - To the editor:

We just read the article, “Flier Prompts Rail Trail Concerns,” in the July 26 Georgetown Record.

We are direct abutters to the proposed Rail Trail and we received the flier slipped into our mailbox. 

My wife, and I too, have responded to the brochure’s call to contact the Board of Selectman. However, we have a very different reaction to the brochure and the reported negative responses you described in your article.

Unlike the brochure and those responding negatively to it, we strongly support the Rail Trail for the following reasons, reasons that correspond to the very same set of concerns that your article describes:

  • Security — The Rail Trail promises to improve the area’s security, not diminish it. Why? Extra eyes and ears in our presence make a community safer. It is a proven fact that criminals act in darkness and anonymity.
  • Users — Non-motorized users (bicycles, skis, walking) tend to be of a more crime-free segment of the population. They are looking for quietude and simple pleasures of enjoying nature.
  • Danger in doing no action — The right of way is more dangerous now, as it exists. Access to commit crime by trespassers is enabled now because of the brush, lack of traffic and places to hide; abutters to the right of way are in more danger now of crime than they will be with an active Rail Trail.
  • Safety — Pedestrians, bicycles, students, dog walkers and mothers with babies walking on busy Route 97 are in more danger from an automobile collision than they would be on the rail trail. There are no sidewalks along most of Route 97. Drivers would appreciate the rail trail too as car traffic would move more freely with less pedestrian activity on the highway.
  • Lack of disruption — The town is in no danger of invasion or disruption of the peace. The downtown commuter parking lot, not used on weekends, would be a perfect and unobtrusive staging area for people to park and use the Rail Trail. Besides, mostly townspeople would use the trail because it runs parallel to the Route 97 corridor that already exists.
  • Economics — We strongly disagree with concerns regarding land values and economic damage. Increased traffic will give businesses, especially downtown businesses, a potential boost. Rail Trail users, as stated before, will tend to be of a higher economic bracket with more disposable income. Abutting businesses like Nunan’s would benefit as well.
  • Land Values — the Rail Trail will be an asset to the town. The relaxation and recreational opportunities make this town more desirable. Values, if anything, will increase because of this beautiful asset.
  • Paranoia — as with most public use proposals in this country, fantasies and paranoia about sex, drugs, alcohol and crime run rampant. These fears, in this instance, are not borne out in fact, yet this “concern” is one of the biggest fears and impediments to projects that are designed for the public good!
  • We Already Own the Rail Trail — these old rail beds are public property, much of which was given to the railroads in order to encourage railway development. With the railroads long gone, it is fitting that we derive more benefit from them and reclaim these rights of way. Right now they lay fallow and benefits are confined to a private company for distribution of electricity. We should reclaim ownership and stewardship of our property.
  • Buffers Already Exist — most of the properties adjacent to the Rail Trail are already buffered with vegetation and fences. The unused trail, its bramble, brush and utility wires are unsightly. And, contrary to common perception, these trails are already in use; yes, people hike and ski on them now anyway.

Ironically, we believe that every misplaced fear regarding the Rail Trail applies to public ways such as Route 97, with the plethora of loud motorcycles, easy access and escape possibilities. With the motorized vehicles heading to Haverhill and Lawrence, along with the dangers to bicyclists and pedestrians, it is more of an affront to safety, security and enjoyment of property than would be the rail trail with quiet enjoyment of our town’s beauty.

One additional note is warranted. A Boston Globe article, published in July, spoke of crime and overuse problems with the Minuteman Trail between Cambridge and Lexington. There are major distinctions between the Minuteman route and our Rail Trail:

  • The Minuteman trail runs through an extremely densely populated area; ours does not, so the collision of conflicting interests resulting from overuse (bikes, hikers, roller bladders) is not possible here.
  • Crime is more likely in densely populated areas, which ours is not. The Minuteman does not generate additional crime. The proportion of crime on the rail trail is no different than the proportion of crime on Massachusetts Avenue that parallels that trail. It is not the trail that is generating additional crime. The Rail Trail is reflective of the overall crime patterns of the area. The crime rate here is low, and so will be the crime rate of our Rail Trail.

The folks described in your article, with their reservations against the trail, need to refocus their fears and place them in the context of reality. And the reality is that their fears are misplaced. The Rail Trail will provide the opposite result.

We will be there to support that Rail Trail, which will be a real asset to our town.

Elisabeth M. LeBrun, Esq.
James A. Harrison
Transportation Industry Analyst
U.S. Dept. of Transportation
Central Street



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