ISSUE | SEPTA

Get me to the airport

As a frequent rider on SEPTA commuter trains, I was surprised and angered by last week's schedule changes ("SEPTA revises runs for rail punctuality," Dec. 10). I have never experienced great delays on the Warminster and West Trenton Lines and have been extremely appreciative of the direct service to Philadelphia International Airport.

The Melrose Park Station was renovated recently and is the only station in Cheltenham Township that is handicapped accessible. It seems counterintuitive that an increase in the usage of the two lines should lead to a cancellation of direct service to the airport.

The apparent lack of community input is also regrettable, and the timing is outrageous. SEPTA should rethink the changes and look elsewhere for improvements in economy and efficiency.

Susan Sommovilla, Elkins Park

ISSUE | DOLPH SCHAYES

A star on, off court

I interviewed Dolph Schayes, who died Dec. 10

("A big man with a guard's flair," Dec. 11), for my biography of Wilt Chamberlain. Schayes coached the Philadelphia 76ers for three seasons, two of those with Wilt at center.

Unfortunately, it wasn't a happy marriage. Dolph told me that he was a lousy coach, yet he was named the NBA coach of the year in 1966.

But he was a great player - an NBA all-star 12 times and named one of the league's 50 greatest players.

In an era when athletes have egos as big as the Empire State Building, it was a pleasure to spend more than an hour with Schayes, who was a humble gentleman, a real mensch.

Swish one for me, Dolph, in that great basketball game in the sky.

Robert Cherry, Wynnewood, robertcherry2@aol.com

ISSUE | GUN CONTROL

An uphill battle

Samantha Paige Rosen's commentary presented a compelling and rational argument for restricting gun ownership in the United States, using facts and sound logic ("U.S. should strictly limit gun ownership," Dec. 10).

It will never fly. Rational thought is not enough - not in the good ol' U.S. of N.R.A.

Dave Koller, Gilbertsville

ISSUE | SHRIMP

A bad taste

It is a simple decision - no more shrimp for me ("Seafood from slave labor," Tuesday). Plenty of other "fish" in the sea.

Cindy Singer, Philadelphia

ISSUE | PHILADELPHIA SCHOOL DISTRICT

Hite has 300,000 reasons to stay put

Why would William R. Hite Jr. want to move on from the Philadelphia School District when he's pulling in $300,000 a year as superintendent ("Give Hite the ball," Dec. 13)? With that amount of money, let's hope he can make it into the end zone repeatedly.

Peter Tobia, Philadelphia, petertobia1@verizon.net

ISSUE | CONSERVATION

Congress gives nature a boost

In a bipartisan action Friday, Congress overwhelmingly passed legislation to permanently extend the enhanced federal incentive for land conservation.

Many land trusts have worked to permanently protect farms and forests, natural areas, and green spaces through conservation easements. These lands protect drinking-water supplies, reduce flooding, support family farms, and protect wildlife.

Pennsylvania land trusts hold easements on 250,000 acres, thanks to the generosity of people and a small tax incentive. A conservation easement restricts development of the land in support of a stated conservation purpose. The landowner may use the donation to receive a modest federal tax deduction.

Regionally, more than 90 percent of the 466 conservation easements held by the Brandywine Conservancy were donated. The tax incentive was critical to many of these projects, which have resulted in the permanent protection of more than 37,000 acres rich with natural, agricultural, and historic resources in Pennsylvania and Delaware. The incentives have enabled much of the region's extensive conservation work, leaving a legacy that will benefit future generations.

On behalf of the conservation community, we thank our congressional delegations in Pennsylvania and Delaware for supporting this key legislation.

Sherri Evans-Stanton, director, Brandywine Conservancy, and Andrew Loza, executive director, Pennsylvania Land Trust Association

Fund renewed for parks, playgrounds

The federal budget that was passed on Friday included a renewed commitment to a program that has had a major impact on our communities and environment.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund was established 50 years ago to preserve our country's natural resources, waterways, and cultural heritage. Monies for the fund come not from taxpayers but from royalties paid for offshore drilling.

Local gems such as the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge - Natural Lands Trust's first conservation success more than 60 years ago - and Valley Forge National Historic Park have benefited from the fund's support, as have countless playgrounds and trails.

Congress let the fund lapse earlier this year, but the new budget renews the program for three years and increases 2016 funding by nearly $150 million, its highest level since 2010.

Many local members of Congress from both parties helped to secure this victory, particularly Republican Rep. Pat Meehan.

As we celebrate the extension of the fund, we recognize that permanent reauthorization is essential. For now, though, it will continue to help communities preserve wildlife habitats, protect their drinking water, and provide places for families to connect with nature and each other.

Molly K. Morrison, president, Natural Lands Trust, Media, mmorrison@natlands.org