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Comments by marcmcginnes

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Posted on August 29 at 3:45 p.m.

Where we are now, following the two court rulings, is all-of-us-standing-together with an opportunity to consider for the FIRST time ALL possible means (1) to prevent suicidal behavior on the bridge, (2) to protect the safety of law enforcement personnel and others who respond to such behavior, and (3) to preserve the historic beauty and exhilaration that the bridge provides for the millions of people who pass along this Scenic Highway between Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Valley.

I am proud to stand with all persons and groups in our community who have a sincere commitment to making the most of this opportunity to come up a solution that meets all three objectives, regardless of whether or not we have agreed or disagreed about the limited option (tall fences) plan devised by Caltrans decision-makers who live elsewhere.

Because of the court rulings, we can now evaluate together the proposal by the State Historic Preservation Office that under-walkway netting be installed, similar to that being designed for the Golden Gate Bridge. Such a proposal is one about which there may be far stronger public support than for the tall fences one. If so, our community leaders can insist that Caltrans proceed accordingly. Happily, this is what occurred in the early 1960s when Caltrans wanted to construct an elevated freeway through parts of Santa Barbara but was made to choose the superior plan favored by the community-- the one that we (don’t) see today.

Looking forward to our work ahead.

On Friends Win One

Posted on August 23 at 11:54 a.m.

Dear Tony,

I and other Friends of the Bridge are guided in our efforts by expert opinion in the field of life-saving suicide prevention means.

The following statements are those of Gary Spielmann, former Director of the Office of Suicide Prevention in the New York State Department of Mental Health, and they were made specifically about the proposed fencing barriers on the Cold Spring Bridge:

"The message conveyed by a physical barrier (i.e. fence) on a bridge to a potential jumper is: don’t jump here. The message that should be conveyed to a distraught person is: we want to help you now, so that you don’t lose your life as a result of a temporary crisis. Advocates like the Glendon Association rely far too much on the efficacy of a structure to block the impulsive behavior of would-be suicidal individuals, and fail to appreciate its limitations and shortcomings."

"[Physical barriers] provide society with the impression that by installing a physical barrier, we have somehow addressed the needs of suicidal individuals, so we can continue to ignore the likely root problem - mental illness, which is probably treatable in a majority of cases. WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND THAT THE BRIDGE IS NOT THE PROBLEM. (emphasis added) The problem is the stigma, shame, and fear behind mental illness and the thoughts
that surround suicide."

"[Physical barriers] do nothing to address the suicidal condition of the person who might be tempted to jump from the bridge. Unlike the live voice at the receiving end of a
callbox, a physical barrier does not give a desperate person a reason to live or serve as a listening post for the real or imagined motives for being on the bridge at that point in time. By relying solely on an inanimate object to “save a life”, an opportunity to identify and help a suicidal individual is lost."

"[Physical barriers] shift the risk of suicide, rather than manage it. A careful review of the literature on the efficacy of bridge barriers shows that their installation does not
reduce the suicide rate in the surrounding geographic area."

It is very unfortunate that The Glendon Association was allowed by Caltrans to be in a primary advising role in this case. Their limited expertise compares very unfavorably with the extensive experience of Mr. Spielmann, and Glendon's highly-partisan pro-barriers agenda should have disqualified it from acting in an advisory capacity.

In any event, it is not too late for Caltrans to turn away from its tall fencing barriers proposal and to adopt the superior human barriers alternative plan that we have proposed.

Thank you for your consideration,
Marc McGinnes

On Criss-Cross

Posted on August 21 at 9:26 p.m.

Bravo, Mr. Maualim! Your letter speaks from a place of moral clarity on a topic about which there is so much confusion, fear and hostility.

I am grateful that I got to read and consider your wise words, and I am grateful too for your presence in our community-- the local, the global, and the wider ones of which we earthlings are a part.

Thank you.

On Alien Invasions

Posted on August 19 at 8:37 a.m.

Dear Tony,

The last sentence of your letter invites response, as it is a fact that most people who are affiliated with Friends of the Bridge do indeed spend their time and energy working for the environment and for life.

That is the reason we have been spending our time and energy over the past five years to prevent Caltrans from defacing the unique grace and beauty of the Cold Spring Bridge by constructing 10-foot-tall fencing barriers as an inferior means to saving the lives of suicidal people.

Caltrans has so far failed to give adequate consideration to live-saving suicide prevention plans that Friends and others have presented to it. The plan presented by Friends was designed by the former Director of the Office of Suicide Prevention in the New York State Department of Mental Health, and it has been working well since 2007 on five bridges in that state. Caltrans is trying to ignore it, and that is one of the reasons that it illegally attempted to move ahead with its more expensive and less effective fencing proposal.

BOTH saving lives AND preserving beauty are the goals of Friends of the Bridge, and we will keep on spending our time and energy to achieve this on the Cold Spring Bridge for as long as it takes.

Marc McGinnes
a Friend of the Bridge
and also
Founding President, Community Environmental Council;
Founding Exec. Dir., Environmental Defense Center;
Senior Faculty Member, UCSB Environmental Studies Program (1971-2005);
Founding President, Community Mediation Council;
etc.

On Criss-Cross

Posted on August 16 at 3:29 p.m.

Interesting coincidence to read about this place while we are staying here with grandchildren and others in our extended family. Spent the day paddling, swimming, fishing, lazing around at one of the lakes close-by.

A pair of bears sauntered by our cabins by last night. Deer gazing from the forest shadows before breakfast.

On Escape to the Eastern Sierra

Posted on August 13 at 10:24 a.m.

@ Equus-posteriori

I think that you are not being too idealistic in invoking the folk wisdom that an "Ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." More effective attention to and treatment of those at risk of suicide is needed, but alas, this requires a good deal of money, not to mention changes in our attitudes toward each other. It is very well to keep working to make needed changes in these realms.

But what we have going on at the Cold Spring Bridge is something different. Up until now, Caltrans has treated the issue of effective suicide prevention (as opposed to diversion) as a "sideshow" (the very term used), and it has kept speeding ahead-- in part for its own budget-justifying purposes-- to spend the $4 million that it has allocated to this project, even though a superior and less costly alternative has been presented to it.

Maybe I am too idealistic to believe that citizens have the right and the responsibility to require that those, like Caltrans, who act in our name, do so in a reasoned and fiscally responsible manner.

On Safe Passage over the Canyon

Posted on August 12 at 10:05 p.m.

Equus_posteriori and all,

What we Friends of the Bridge are attempting to do can be very challenging to folks who are stuck in the too-dominant polarized/polarizing paradigm that frames our choices in matters such as this as tightly-confining EITHER / OR propositions-- in your terms it gets "boiled down to 'safety vs. aesthetics" (where vs. means AGAINST or FOR).

We-- and we think most people-- are in favor of and working to implement a plan that BOTH improves safety AND preserves beauty.

A BOTH / AND solution can be achieved in this case if local leaders and Caltrans are willing.

We are hopeful that these public servants are willing to achieve a WIN / WIN resolution: higher safety railings, closed-circuit cameras and speakers, call-phones linked to qualified suicide-prevention counselors, improved officer training, making safe the area under the bridge, limiting near-bridge vehicle access-- at a fraction of the cost of fabricating and installing the tall fences that have been proposed.

Thank you for your consideration.

On Safe Passage over the Canyon

Posted on August 12 at 1:26 p.m.

Dear Mr. Alfano,

A further important fact that I did not mention in my response above is that I and others have gone below the bridge to see and photograph the terrain there. The area is typical of any canyon in the Santa Ynez Mountains, and even in its current state, it is neither extremely rough nor life-threatening to recovery personnel.

What is astonishing is that neither Caltrans nor the Sheriff have seen fit to do even minimal trail-clearing work to assure that recovery personnel can do their work in full safety. Astonishing that this matter has overlooked for decades, and that the true conditions have been grossly misrepresented in the course of the discussion of the Caltrans fencing barriers proposal.

I would be happy to accompany you or anyone else to view these conditions, so that you can have first-hand knowledge.

Thank you your service and for your consideration.

Marc McGinnes

On Misuse of Forest

Posted on August 12 at 9:48 a.m.

Dear Mr. Alfano,

Thank you for your letter and your service to the community over the years.

Like many others who oppose the Caltrans fencing barriers plan, I have experienced the anguish of the death by suicide of dearly beloved ones, and so those of us who have come together as Friends of the Bridge are committed to finding the means that will most effectively serve to save the lives of individuals who go there in the awful grip of suicidal intent or impulse, and to see that this is accomplished without defacing the unique grace and beauty of this justly famous single-arch-span and degrading the wonderful of experience of being practically airborne in the midst of such while passing over it in our cars, bikes, or on foot.

In keeping with that mission, we developed a suicide prevention plan for the bridge in consultation with one of the nation's leading experts on suicide prevention, and we presented it to Caltrans officials in 2007, accompanied by the comments of that expert explaining that fencing barriers were an inferior means of suicide prevention for the reason that they mostly served merely to divert suicidal individuals to take their lives elsewhere, absent the intervention of human beings. Our plan for the Cold Spring Bridge is based on the "human barriers plan" designed by this expert and adopted by the New York State Bridge Authority and that has been in effective use as a live-saving suicide prevention plan since 2007 on the five bridges under its jurisdiction.

Long-needed higher safety railings, closed-circuit cameras, call-boxes directly linked to qualified helpers, and better training for uniformed first-responders are the main components of the "human barriers plan" that we and others believe to be far more effective at saving lives, not merely-- by no means other than cold, hard steel-- diverting suicidal people to take their lives elsewhere in our community.

Working for the best way BOTH to save lives AND to preserve beauty,

Marc McGinnes,
a Friend of the Bridge

On Misuse of Forest

Posted on August 9 at 5:23 p.m.

Dear Ms. Hughes,

You have my deepest sympathy for the loss of your eldest son. Like many others who oppose the Caltrans fencing barriers plan, I have experienced the anguish of the death by suicide of dearly beloved ones.

Thus, the mission of those of us who have come together as Friends of the Bridge is to see that what is done on the bridge will most effectively serve to save the lives of individuals who go there in the awful grip of suicidal intent or impulse, and to see that this is accomplished without defacing the unique grace and beauty of this justly famous single-arch-span and degrading the wonderful of experience of being practically airborne in the midst of such while passing over it in our cars, bikes, or on foot.

In keeping with that mission, we developed a suicide prevention plan for the bridge in consultation with one of the nation's leading experts on suicide prevention, and we presented it to Caltrans officials in 2007, accompanied by the comments of that expert explaining that fencing barriers were an inferior means of suicide prevention for the reason that they mostly served merely to divert suicidal individuals to take their lives elsewhere, absent the intervention of human beings. Our plan for the Cold Spring Bridge is based on the "human barriers plan" designed by this expert and adopted by the New York State Bridge Authority and that has been in effective use as a live-saving suicide prevention plan since 2007 on the five bridges under its jurisdiction.

Long-needed higher safety railings, closed-circuit cameras, call-boxes directly linked to qualified helpers, and better training for uniformed first-responders are the main components of the "human barriers plan" that we and others believe to be far more effective at saving lives, not merely-- by no means other than cold, hard steel-- diverting suicidal people to take their lives elsewhere in our community.

In sympathy, and working for the best way to save lives and to preserve beauty,

Marc McGinnes,
a Friend of the Bridge

On Safe Passage over the Canyon

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