Friday, January 07, 2005


Lake District is facing mass resignations by its volunteer rangers over a decision to scrap free guided walks in the national park because they do not attract enough people from ethnic minority communities. Ranger-led walks are among 900 Lake District events planned for 2005-06 that are to be dropped because they appeal mostly to "white, middle-class, middle-aged people". The cost-cutting move is part of a strategy that hopes to win extra government and European Union funding for the park by meeting targets to attract more young, urban, black, Asian and disabled people. Some people have accused the authority, which is due to ratify the decision today, of saying that white people are no longer welcome in the Lake District.

The park's 300 volunteer rangers bring thousands of novice walkers to the Lake District every year. In addition to the scenic walks, volunteers run slide shows, pathfinder courses and farm visits for children, map and compass courses and sea and mountain rescue courses for adults. Next year's events guide for England's largest national park was due to go to print when the rangers were told that it was to be torn up. There was no consultation.

Mick Casey, a media officer for the authority, said that the events programme was used by only 35,000 of the 14 million people who visit the Lake District annually. "The majority who do the walks are white, middle-class, middle-aged people," he said. "The Government is encouraging national parks to appeal to young people, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities."

Derek Tunstall, 51, a Lake District volunteer for 32 years, said that the rangers cost the authority only œ32,000 last year in travel expenses, courses and safety equipment. "Some people who come on the walks every year feel devastated," he said. "There will be widespread resignations if it goes ahead." Among those considering resigning is Derek Lyon, 73, a former chairman of the Lake District Voluntary Rangers: "We treat everyone the same on the walks, whatever their skin colour, age or social background. Stopping them seems incomprehensible."

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The People's Republic of Berkeley show that they really don't give a damn even about their next-door neighbours

Here in the nation's capital of tolerance and liberalism, the people have had enough. More than a score of neighbors are suing an Animal House near the University of California-Berkeley campus where over the years students have hurled chunks of roasted pig at passers-by during a luau, beheaded a chicken with garden shears and twirled a flaming baton next to a neighbor's fence. The off-campus cluster of houses called Le Chateau has developed a reputation for outrageousness that has forced even the open-minded to demand an end to the situation. One former Chateauvian, as they're called, was dubbed "naked guy" because he went to class wearing only shoes and a small hat. A small-claims court judge recently concluded hearing testimony from 21 neighbors, each of whom seeks $5,000, or $105,000 total, from the student housing cooperative association that owns Le Chateau. A date for the ruling wasn't announced.

For 15 years, next-door neighbor George Lewinski has endured noisy pool parties, marijuana smoke and homeless people from the nearby 1960s landmark People's Park camping at Le Chateau. "It's (like) a very bad frat house, with a kind of anarchist politics that welcomes all sorts of undesirable people," Lewinski, 57, said. His wife, a UC-Berkeley psychology professor, has used earplugs to sleep since 1989, he said.

Another plaintiff, Julie Morfee, 40, who resided in a different co-op while a UC-Berkeley student in the 1980s, said she's hardly an old fuddy-duddy but has to sleep with her windows closed because her back yard abuts the raucous Chateau pool. "It's extraordinary and outrageous in an outrageous town," she said. "At its worst, it's like living next door to a pretty wild commune."....

Many of the plaintiffs in the suit against Le Chateau teach or study at UC-Berkeley, including Lewinski, a senior producer for the local National Public Radio affiliate and a journalism instructor at the campus. During recent testimony, neighbors expressed exasperation over noise and drug use - complaining that Chateau students took up chain-saw sculpturing and tossed drug needles in their back yards.

Next-door neighbor Michelle Pellegrin, who rents rooms in her house to student boarders, said she was horrified to look into a Chateau window and witness someone intravenously administering drugs at about the time a heroin bust had happened there. Plaintiff John Caner, president of the Willard Neighborhood Association, told of once taking a look inside Le Chateau: "In my opinion, it looks like one of the worst New York subway stations."

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