Monday, May 7, 2007

no trespassing sign

To the Editor: November 21, 2003

There is something that doesn’t love a “No Trespassing” sign on public land. On a recent stroll at the Surf Club I discovered that the sign prohibiting people from walking on the rocks of Garvin’s Point had, yet again, been pulled up and tossed aside. I couldn’t help smiling. Someone besides me despises that sign, I thought.
Since I was small, those rocks have interested me far more than anything else at the Surf Club. Countless children and adults explored that peninsula of boulders that turns into an island at high tide. A few years ago, however, some lawyer or administrator in our nannyish town hall deemed the risk of slipping and getting a boo-boo too great for the people of Madison to be allowed. “Wouldn’t be prudent!” one imagines this decision-maker exclaiming.
I will keep walking out on those rocks. No government trembling at the thought of lawsuits will take from me the distinct pleasure of meandering those barnacled, seaweedy surfaces. It is bad enough that most of the town shoreline is owned privately and walled off, preventing an unmarred view of the coast, not to mention a stroll. What next? Will the danger of jellyfish stings in August result in a prohibition from entering the water?
If Madison’s town hall simply cannot endure its phobia of lawsuits and sore bums, it would be very sensible to simply put up a sign stating that anyone venturing onto the rocks does so only at their own risk. To prohibit everyone from risking (an improbable) pain for (a certain) pleasure is for the town government to put its own (imagined) interests above the freedom of the people on the people’s land.
Otherwise, that ugly sign and cowardly yellow rope will keep going up – and coming back down again.

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