Response To Letter Regarding ‘Whiney Middle-Aged White Guys’

Los Alamos

I take more than a little offense to the letter to the editor submitted by Ms. Lynn Hanrahan.  First, she assumes those taking issue with the overreaction in closing all open spaces within Los Alamos County are middle-aged white guys.  Not sure how she knows this to be true but guessing it is just generalization and stereotyping on her part. This is insulting and undermines her credibility.  Second, she clearly feels threatened by the purported risk presented by individuals enjoying the open spaces that contribute significantly to the quality of life in Los Alamos without offering any objective evidence of said risk. I respectfully suggest this is a manifestation of her abject fear of a subject area that she does not well understand.

For the record, I’m 67.  Though I feel like I am still middle-aged (or less!), I am hardly whiney. I’m actually quite pragmatic and thoughtful and make decisions and voice opinions in a thoughtful manner based on objective analysis of facts.  And, for the record, I am a white guy. Not sure why the color of my skin (or that of others) makes any difference.  I repeat:  I am not whiney.  Nor are those whom have written letters challenging the blanket closure of all open spaces with in LA County.  Those I don’t know personally I know through their participation in a variety of county venues and initiatives.  All have the best interest of the county and its residents at heart and contribute on a regular basis to the well-being of Los Alamos and its residents. I don’t know Ms. Hanrahan so cannot speak to her engagement in, and contributions to the community in a similar manner. Nor do I know if Ms. Hanrahan uses the county’s open spaces for recreation.  I’m guessing not or she would better understand the perspectives of other letter writers.

Now back to the objective analysis of the facts.  It appears Ms. Hanrahan assumes those of us that recreate in the county’s open spaces engage in risky behaviors that threaten her well-being.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Nonetheless, she finds it necessary to insult us in trying to make the point that she feels threatened by us. In my 40+ years as a Los Alamos resident and a frequent user of the county’s open spaces, I have never seen a mountain biker or hiker smoking a cigarette or starting a camp/warming fire in the canyons. Further, I suggest that the very few that do engage in such behaviors will not be thwarted by administrative closures of open spaces. Ms. Hanrahan is more likely to be threatened by the neighbor who lights his or her barbecue grill which then flares and causes a house fire that then spreads to unkempt vegetation because the grill was not placed in a safe location (let me introduce you to my neighbor whose grill, placed immediately next to his house, flares up on a regular basis; two weeks ago I asked if he needed a fire extinguisher!). 

Regarding the risk posed to users of open spaces and emergency response personnel tasked with finding and rescuing individuals finding themselves in a canyon as a wildfire erupts, three points:  (1) we are personally responsible for our own safety, (2) there are few areas within the county’s open spaces where emergency egress is not possible in the event a wildfire erupts, and (3) making open space users aware of those risks and that they cannot depend on emergency response personnel to rescue them from imminent danger obviates the responsibility of emergency response personnel from doing so if such actions pose a hazard to their safety. 

Additional facts, as pointed out by previous letter writers, point to the blanket closure of all open spaces without utilizing a risk-based approach and without engagement of users of our open spaces as an overreaction. (If I am wrong on these assertions I challenge Chief Hughes to explain in detail how the closure decision was reached.)  With all due respect to the Chief, he took the easy and expedient path forward in mandating a county-wide closure of open spaces rather than taking a more methodical, risk-based approach in determining which areas should be closed and where controls (such as prohibition of open fires) should be implemented in lieu of closure.

 Rather than writing insulting letters, I suggest Ms. Hanrahan engage in dialogue to better understand how a risk-based approach in managing our county’s open spaces better serves the community (and I respectfully suggest Chief Hughes should do the same).