Drawing the line on park ride

A zip line in Fairmount Park would not present an "entirely new vantage point," as a recent Inquirer editorial stated. The Wissahickon Valley houses a gorge, its varied topography offering dramatic views. For dizzying treetop adventures, trek to Mom Rinker's Rock, Council Rock, Lover's Leap, or Fingerspan. En route, your environmental education will beat hanging in a harness.

What's more, a zip line would degrade a sensitive ecosystem even if no tree were punctured. The course would pass through an established beech forest. As slow-growing beeches mature, their roots interact with soil fungi, providing habitat for fragile twayblade orchids, beechdrops, and redback salamanders. A five-acre amusement - with employees patrolling, zip-line users zipping above, infrastructure anchored amidst roots - would surely displace many organisms. And in the already stressed Wissahickon, five out of 1,800 acres would be significant.

Fairmount Park was established to protect natural resources, not to raise revenue. If a zip line firm can lease parkland, maybe I can pay the city to build an eco-lodge, nestled unobtrusively within Fairmount woods. Where do we draw the line? I assert: at the park's edge.

Scott Quitel, Lafayette Hill, squitel@comcast.net

Treatment can help job outlook

Even though Gov. Corbett recently received criticism for linking Pennsylvania's lagging job growth to the failure of potential employees to pass drug tests, it is true that, according to a 2011 Department of Justice National Drug Intelligence Center report, lost productivity due to drug use costs the nation more than $120 billion annually. But a primary challenge in getting individuals with addictions on the road to recovery and productivity is adequate funding.

The Corbett administration recently noted that only one in eight Pennsylvanians with addiction issues can access proper treatment due to the lack of money for treatment programs. These programs and our community have been negatively impacted by resource shortfalls for quite some time. The Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs is updating many of the outdated regulatory constraints that restrict innovation and is working to reduce the administrative costs. Even so, there is only so far a dollar can be stretched.

So if the governor sees substance abuse as an anchor that is weighing down the economy of the state and a productive workforce, then he should increase funding for treatment programs. Getting people into recovery and the job market is a good investment strategy for our community.

Terence McSherry, president and chief executive officer, NorthEast Treatment Centers, Philadelphia, tmcsherr@net-centers.org

Serving with a medical pioneer

The development of a heart-lung machine was a significant development in medicine and opened an avenue into the cardiac surgery available today ("60 years ago, a witness to history," May 6). Commentator John J. McKeown Jr. worked with the developer of the machine, John Gibbon, in developing its earliest applications. Later, McKeown was appointed chairman of surgery at Mercy Medical Center. He was known as a man of outstanding character and a true professional. I am thankful, along with colleagues John Gostigon and John Dzwoncyzk, to have had the privilege to have served as associate directors of surgery with McKeown when the doctor was at Mercy.

Alphonse J. DiGiovanni, M.D., Newtown Square

City schools have many fans

A recent summit organized by Philadelphia's Teacher Action Group, a diverse group of educators, students, and community members committed to quality education in Philadelphia, focused on trying to change the story on city schools. It was immensely inspiring to absorb the energy, passion, and dedication of so many concerned and motivated Philadelphians.

When an organizer asked the group how many had felt sad or angry about what we see happening in our schools, every hand in the room was in the air. Yet the fact that so many had gathered on a beautiful, spring Saturday to exchange ideas, materials, resources, and strategies left me feeling that there are useful and productive ways to put these difficult emotions to work. Despite stories of a "doomsday scenario" in city schools, my summit experience told me this city is full of people fighting the good fight for quality education.

Erika Dajevskis, master's candidate, Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Unmask uncivil online critics

The online invectives directed recently toward Jeffrey Lurie and his new wife, Tina Lai, a woman of Vietnamese heritage, were undeserved ("Don't let online incivility hide," May 12). Both have been long-term and responsible members of our community. Both have made contributions to our community. As commentator Michael Smerconish suggests, Philly.com should require that online comments be associated with a verifiable individual. That would be the same standard required for printed letters to the editor.

As for the behavioral specialists who offered theories explaining such despicable online behavior, I would add: cowardice.

Stephen Weinstein, Elkins Park

Spare N.J. customers solar fee

While moving to more environmentally friendly forms of energy generation, we need to avoid creating problems: like burdening those who pay utility bills with the cost of moving to new technologies that should be a utility's responsibility. Yet PSE&G and New Jersey regulators are discussing a proposal that would allow the utility to charge customers nearly $450 million to pay for a solar energy project. This means that customers already paying among the nation's highest bills will shoulder the burden for energy generation projects that are not their responsibility. They'll also help swell the bottom line of PSE&G by as much as $45 million. This solar energy program costs too much, helps too few, and, ultimately, is not customers' financial responsibility.

Dave Mollen, president, AARP New Jersey, Union

Dog's life shows a better way

In the "New Leash on Life" series, the picture of Joe Davis saying goodbye to his dog broke my heart ("Dogs are on the fast track to new, loving homes," May 9). The connection and love was so evident, so redemptive, and seemingly such a bridge between the inmates' social problems and a possible path back to their own basic humanity.

Rick Holmes, Huntingdon Valley, rwh3315@yahoo.com

Going to the dogs was a pleasure

I hated to see reporter Melissa Dribben's "New Leash on Life" series end, since the pictures were great and the human interest was educational to me on both sides - dog and man ("There's new resolve: Paroled inmates try to avoid pitfalls," May 10). Here's hoping The Inquirer continues to find such great, heartfelt stories to tell.

Karen Falciani, Mount Laurel