In your Sept. 24 article on Segways at the Arcata Marsh, Jon O'Connor of North Coast Adventure Centers (NCAC) stated, "I wish they'd talk to me," about those objecting to his planned Segway tours.
Funny, that's the same sentiment that Friends of the Arcata Marsh (FOAM) Board members — of which I am President — expressed when first informed about the tours at our Sept. 10 meeting. Despite FOAM being the nonprofit charged with education, public outreach and training volunteers for Marsh tours, we were not consulted or even informed until five months after the NCAC contract was approved by the Arcata City Council!
Environmental Services Department staff attend our monthly board meetings to update us on issues affecting the Marsh, but not a word was uttered about Segway tours during that five-month interval. When the plan was finally disclosed, a straw poll of surprised FOAM Board members found 6 opposed and 2 in favor. To me, it seemed as if the City thought it would be on shaky ground with people who love the Marsh and give their time, talent and money to keep it functioning as a wildlife sanctuary. Why else take so long to inform us?
After research, I found the Segway tours were approved as a consent calendar item at the April 15 Council meeting, meaning there was no public comment. The agenda item was listed as "Approval of the Assignment and Assumption of the Ropes Course Facility Agreement and Amendment No. 1 to Ropes Course Facility Agreement," with the amendment being the mechanism whereby "contractor may provide Segway tours." It was not disclosed that tours might occur at the Marsh.
The NCAC website does not purport that its Segway tours are limited to or even targeted at persons with mobility problems, which is the justification for allowing "electric personal assistive mobility devices" like electric wheelchairs and tricycles on Arcata Marsh trails, where City ordinance bans motorized vehicles. Letting able-bodied people use these "assistive mobility devices" is akin to enabling scammers driving vehicles with handicapped stickers to take advantage of rules written to help a minority.
The NCAC website is advertising pay-for-hire Segway tours of the Arcata Marsh, as well of the Community Forest and downtown, although no schedules or costs are posted. This seems to contradict Heather Stevens, Arcata recreation manager, who is quoted as saying "There are no routes that have been approved yet. We're going to various groups and committees to determine routes." I hope she includes FOAM and Redwood Region Audubon Society among the groups to be consulted, as both have led free weekly Marsh tours for many years.
Everyone who has contacted me after reading the article has expressed opposition to Segway tours of the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary and asked how they can be stopped. I hope that Mr. O'Connor stands by his statement that "if people really don't want Segways on the Marsh Trails, I won't send them there."
Sue Leskiw, Eureka
I was both amused and concerned about the topic of Segways at the Marsh. As a charter member of the Friends of the Arcata Marsh, current board member, and an active participant in the 1970s wastewater wars that brought the Marsh into existence, I frequently have the privilege to participate in the training of docents. At our recent training session, I met the young man who is preparing himself to lead the Segway tours of the Marsh. His astonishment that anyone could have reservations about, much less object to, this fun, marvelous, green project was touching. How could someone not love an idea that was novel, fun, green, and good for tourism in Arcata! After all, their intentions are good, isn't that what matters? Well, actually, no. It is difficult to accept Segways as appropriate in a wildlife sanctuary noted for its peace and tranquility.
I see the Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary as a place to be enjoyed. Fun does not always equal enjoyable. If an activity helps one enjoy the wildlife sanctuary, that is good. That is a first principle. If the wildlife sanctuary is just a place to enjoy an activity, that is not good. It may be neutral, but it is not positive. If an activity interferes with another's enjoyment of the wildlife sanctuary, that is bad. I would actually like to see bicycles out of the sanctuary, too. But, I have to admit that the bikers I have encountered have generally been courteous and only occasionally awkward and overbearing. It could be that the Segway riders would be the same, but I would want to see that thoroughly demonstrated, before reluctantly accepting their presence.
I am more concerned about the way this was mishandled than with the idea itself. The City Council slipped up. They failed to consult the organization that provides and trains volunteers and docents. They accepted good intentions for good practices. They allowed a commercial enterprise to use the public marsh and the free docent training for a money-making endeavor. So out of character! They should go back and do it right.
Robert A. Rasmussen, Eureka
Sweet Spot:* Robert Rasmussen wins a Bon Boniere sundae for sending our favorite letter of the week.*