Letters to the Editor

From the week of October 7, 2004

Where the Columbine Scandals Grow

Hide and seek: Regarding Alan Prendergast's "Anatomy of a Cover-up," in the September 30 issue:

Yup, Jefferson County intentionally buried the evidence before Columbine buried our dead. And although Jefferson County District Attorney Dave Thomas (now running for Congress) has been mentioned in some "major media" for his prominent role in the illegal (Colorado Sunshine laws don't apply to Jefferson County?) cover-up, once again it is Alan Prendergast and Westword filling in the blanks. Thanks. I have two questions:

1. What are the current careers of every member of the Blue Ribbon panel once known as the Governor's Columbine Review Commission? Granted, they lacked subpoena power. Would you also list every state legislator who voted against subpoena power for that crew?

2. Is there a lawmaker in Colorado willing to introduce legislation that would reopen every lawsuit concerning Columbine in which Jefferson County bureaucrats stealthfully hid facts until the statutes of limitation expired?

I don't like frivolous lawsuits. My proposed legislation would only apply to circumstances where twelve students and a teacher are massacred.

Steve Schweitzberger

Safety measures: I would like to commend Westword on all of Alan Prendergast's articles about the Columbine tragedy. They have been nothing short of genius, and I believe they are the most honest pieces of journalism I have ever read. As an assistant principal of a large high school in Illinois, I use these articles as a lesson for teaching safety in our school system. They bring home the idea of "anytime, anywhere." Alan's findings are a sobering reminder that situations like Columbine are always a possibility. Only through honest communication with school officials, police, parents and students can a school system remain safe. Good luck with future attempts to gain the truth, and continue your fine journalism.

Christopher R. Lopez, assistant principal
Moline High School, Moline, Illinois

No Walk in the Park

Vanishing act: Regarding Alan Prendergast's "Loved to Death," in the September 23 issue, the last in his "Places Worth Saving" series:

It's pretty much all of a piece, isn't it? On the Roan Plateau, it's energy development; in Douglas County, it's development; and in Rocky Mountain National Park, it's some form of entertainment -- but in the end, it's people and population that are putting most of the pressure on these areas. I try to be as unobtrusive as possible when hiking -- and because I hike alone, I'm not in conversation, as virtually everyone else seems to be. I can usually hear other people on the trail long before I can see them, and it's not because they're wearing "bear bells" or anything like that. At any rate, I make a point of moving slowly when I encounter animals of any size, am religious about never shortcutting a switchback, and in general do my best to follow all those rules of good stewardship that so many others apparently ignore.

Sometimes it's a little bit like swimming upstream.

Still, I can't deny that it's places like Rocky Mountain National Park, the Indian Peaks, the Pawnee Buttes, Wild Basin, the Black Canyon, Snow Lake and the Nokhu Crags, and a good many others I've yet to see, that brought me to Colorado in the first place. No matter how reverential and careful we might be, if there are enough other people who also share my -- and your -- love for the Colorado outdoors, sooner or later we kill much of what we love with kindness, by loving it to death, as it were, just because there are so many of us.

Whole books could be -- and perhaps already have been -- written about the pressure on Rocky Mountain National Park from people, pollutants and Colorado's development in general. Trying to educate Westword's public with a trio of articles about saving places, whether Douglas County or a national park, speaks to a lot of optimism on your part. Nonetheless, I admire the effort.

Ray Schoch

Animal attraction: "Loved to Death" was an excellent story, and Alan Prendergast did a great job. I am a National Park ranger, and I especially enjoyed Patrick Merewether's accompanying artwork, the illustration of wildlife crowded on a mountain peak. Thanks for bringing the plight of Rocky Mountain National Park to the public's attention. Hopefully things will improve, funding-wise, after November 2.

Carl A. Schumaher
St. Louis, Missouri

Ah, wilderness! Alan Prendergast's story on the dilemmas in managing natural treasures like Rocky Mountain National Park for both people and the environment makes the case for the urgent need to protect these places. As Prendergast points out, national parks are established for both public use and enjoyment and landscape protection -- two missions that can be at odds. But they need not be.

In 1999, I introduced a bill to preserve most of the park's backcountry as wilderness, and I have reintroduced it in every session of Congress since then. It is stalled because of a general anti-wilderness sentiment in Congress, and also because of concerns that a wilderness designation might harm the vitally important tourist economies outside the park.

It is important to note that a wilderness designation is not incompatible with economic and recreation opportunities. The proposal would not eliminate the existing services and developed recreational opportunities for those who cannot -- or choose not to -- venture beyond these facilities, and in fact allows for expansion of these use areas in the future. In addition, visitors could still access trails and campgrounds in wilderness-designated backcountry. And since much of the backcountry is already managed as wilderness, the bill would essentially formalize existing management. What would be gained by this designation is a recognition that these backcountry areas should remain wild and not be at risk of future development of roads, campgrounds and other services, given the pressures of increased visitation. We can either act now to thoughtfully address these use issues by preserving the park's wilderness character, or do nothing and see gradual, irreversible alterations of the park that many have come to love for its rugged beauty.

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