Amidst the hundreds of concerned FishHawk Ranch and Channing Park residents attending were two students on a mission.
Sugriva Forsyth and Grace French of the Randall Area Youth Service (R.A.Y.S.) Council sacrificed an evening to sit through the lengthy meeting to learn more about Tampa Electric Co.'s proposal to run transmission lines between The Bridges subdivisions and Channing Park.
"I read about the power line issue and realized how close to home this issue was," said Randall teacher Kristy Verdi, service learning coordinator of the R.A.Y.S. Council. "I showed the students the path of the power line and asked if any of them wanted to get involved. Sugriva and Grace stepped right up and volunteered."
Concerned with the impact on the conservation area as well as possible health risks of high-voltage transmission lines, the two students began conducting their research into transmission lines. They said what they discovered surprised them and solidified their desire to protest against the proposed transmission lines.
They presented their arguments at the public meeting at The Palmetto Club with state Rep. Rachel Burgin, R-Riverview.
"We are against TECO building power lines over the conservation area behind Bridgewalk," stated French. "It is bad for the FishHawk wildlife and FishHawk's residents. First, there are 200 homes within 100 yards of these transmission lines. This will affect many people in several ways. This will lower the residents' property values because, who wants to live in a home next to transmission lines?
"The power lines also cause health risks due to the electromagnetic fields they produce," added Forsyth. "Many people enjoy taking walks or bike rides on the natural trail, and now their walks will be interrupted due to the power lines hovering over them."
Moreover, said Forsyth, "The construction of the power lines would destroy much of the local wildlife."
The R.A.Y.S. Council was formed at Randall Middle School to improve student character and increase civic participation by providing and facilitating well-planned and organized community service and service-learning opportunities for the community.
Council activities include environmental cleanups, participation in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, involvement in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Day of Service Jan. 18 and Global Youth Service Day and a Sept. 11th flag project in which the students create a giant American flag on the school grounds made from banners with the names of everyone who perished in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a project that involved the entire school.
For information, contact Verdi at firstname.lastname@example.org.