Letter to the Editor

To my fellow neighbors in Spirit Lake

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Not far from the Dickinson County Fairgrounds and St. Mary's Catholic Church, is a little section of unpaved gravel road. It's an odd spot part city, part county with agricultural fields and two old farm houses that have lined either side of the road for over 100 years.

Many of you likely use the road as a shortcut past all the stop signs to get to or from Hy-Vee or Walmart more quickly. Many times, in the wet spring, the road washes out and is closed to through traffic.

I am one of the fortunate few to live on this little gravel road in one of the old farmhouses. And it is truly one of the most beautiful spots in the city, albeit without any lake views.

On Saturday, June 20, two young men parked on this road and began shooting off fireworks at 9:30 p.m. When I let them know they were within city limits and the fields they were shooting the fireworks off into were private property, one of the young men argued with me that they had a right to shoot off the fireworks on a gravel road. I made the rookie mistake of getting upset with this young man and I was really crass towards him. The way I spoke to him was not representative of how I want to deal with my neighbors and community; and at the same time, it was the result of my frustration from a lifetime in which young men have dismissed my words and concerns and also, about how the community misuses this road.

People dump the trash they don't want to pay the city or county to collect along this little bit of gravel road. Things like fridges, tires, flatscreen TVs and boat trailers show up in the middle of the night, lining the ditches. On walks with my dog, he regularly finds deceased cats and dogs who have been dropped off along the road. And every year somebody dumps a load of fish along the ditch. (It's a bizarre and hilarious sight but loses its outrageousness once the fish begin to stink.)

And those are just the big items. I regularly watch cars and pickups and vans throw their beer and pop cans, cigarette butts and empty fast food bags out of their windows. We are a popular spot for people to walk their dogs, and dogs are frequently let off leash along the road to chase my neighbor's chickens and scare her lambs inside their fenced-in pens.

So, if you wouldn't shoot fireworks off in the middle of Hill Avenue, or dump your flatscreen tv in the median by the Gingham Inn, or lay your deceased dog's body to decompose in front of a house on Keokuk Avenue; maybe consider that that wouldn't be an appropriate thing to do on the small gravel path of 10th street.

All I want to do, is just remind people that a gravel road is still a road. A field is still somebody's land that they work hard to take care of. And I want to apologize to the two young men who were the recipients of the brunt of my frustration. No, you can't shoot off fireworks on this gravel road; even if you feel emasculated by being confronted by a woman. But I didn't have to use that kind of language in order to communicate the law. Let's both try better to engage in considerate conversation in the future. But on my end, I am sorry for my words.

With kind regards,

J.H. Pedersen

Spirit Lake