This summer I began to think about how I could change my behavior and make better choices to protect our most precious natural resource, Mother Earth. For me, it was making a commitment to change. As an avid gardener, I believe that I already have a great start – but the question for all of us is “What more can we do?”
I’ve now come to realize that “being green” is more than simply using eco-friendly materials and recycling. It’s about changing everyday behaviors and being more aware of what we do personally. That said, it’s clear to me we need to reduce our dependence on oil and gas so I’ve started using my Vespa LX scooter as much as possible around town. My cherry red scooter is the perfect accessory to my lifestyle as it fits my personality perfectly. The best part is that it can get up to 100 miles per gallon. That said, it also provides me a wonderful way to get a tan and fresh air while saving money and helping the environment.
All was perfectly perfect over the last couple of weeks as I took advantage of the glorious Connecticut days enjoying my scooter, the fresh air and the sunshine all while getting to my appointments, running errands and being “green.”
Taking my scooter around town gets everyone’s attention; one, because it’s red and two, because the license plate reads “MAR TV.” Everyone wants to know about the mileage and I am happy to talk about why I love this form of transportation. Several people have told me I’ve convinced them to buy their own.
Everything was going well until I tried to enter Westport’s Sherwood Island State Park – located along Long Island Sound – the way I usually do on my scooter. It’s a wonderful State Park, and I wanted to drop by for an hour or two to clear my head, take in the beach and read my daily newspaper.
This day would be like no other: I am always waived in to enter the park when I’m on my scooter, and why should this day be no different, right? Oh but wait. I was told because I was driving a motorized vehicle I needed to pay the $7.00 fee to enter – the same fee as for a car. Because I’d never been charged I asked the attendant to make sure she was right about the rate. She replied, “I’m not letting you in; if you aren’t going to pay you’ll have to leave.” Anyone who knows me can tell you I don’t let that type of attitude go unchallenged. I asked for her supervisor, and rather than trying to help me understand what changed she called the park police on me. (It’s not my fault the policy changed for scooters. I honestly wasn’t trying to pull a fast one, but questioning the policy suddenly made me the problem. This made me realize that the attendant wasn’t prepared by her employers on how to handle this situation, and perhaps didn’t know to what degree she could take responsibility, so as a result she felt her only recourse was to call the park police. This wasn’t fair to her, either.) As they arrived I thought for a moment “Oh this is going to look great in the local papers, Mar Jennings gets booted from local beach for driving his Vespa”. I took off my helmet and sunglasses, introduced myself to the park police, and asked them what I had asked the attendant: the fee schedule, explained that I have been coming to the beach regularly and this was the first time someone ever stopped me to pay. I said “I don’t have a problem paying, but I need to know why would we charge one person the same fee as a car load of people.” Does this even make sense? I take less parking space, use less gas and yet they were telling me that their manual states that unless I was walking or on a bike there is a charge to enter – the same price for any motorized vehicle. Anything with a motor, so if one is in a motorized wheelchair would they charge them, too? I was told “YUP – it has a motor.” Clearly they were not willing to be neighborly, so rather than get arrested I accepted what he said, paid my $7.00 fee and scooted my way to the beach.
I contacted the office of our Governor M. Jodi Rell, who referred me to the DEP who referred me around to several people, but as of now I still haven’t hear back from anyone.
So why would I care so much? I feel strongly that our government should reward Americans who are in the quest to help the environment, not make them feel so badly. Wouldn’t it be just as easy to create an incentive to ride a bike, scooter or motorcycle? I understand if it’s not free to enter, but why not a reduced rate, for example $4.00 instead of $7.00? I could have used my car that day, turned on the AC and radio, packed a chair in the trunk and driven the three miles over to the park, but I made a conscious decision to take my scooter because I believed I was doing the right thing. Perhaps right for me, but wrong for the state? I don’t want to make a big deal about this – and I certainly don’t need to worry about saving a $3.00 difference (although many people do!) – but I feel my tax dollars should represent policies that make sense and encourage us to think, then do the right thing, all while being supported for it. If you agree let me know.
Now for a brighter note to end my week: it was time to celebrate Violet’s almost-8 month birthday with some new photos. Talk about a dog learning tricks! She posed and posed and posed—and seemed to be loving it. She had just come from the groomers so I think she wanted to show off how pretty she felt. What a clever girl I have.