In our view: Cheers & Jeers

New trails built at nearly no cost;property crime rises in Vancouver

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Cheers: To nearly two miles of new trails, created at very little cost, at Paradise Point State Park. Washington’s parks are among the most beleaguered state agencies; after being cut off from the general fund, the new Discover Pass isn’t bringing in enough revenue to pay all of the system’s bills. But that didn’t deter the La Center-area park’s tiny staff — there are two full-time employees — from building a winding trail through a wooded area and a meadow, a good place to spot birds. “It all starts with visitors. You’ve got to get out support,” Park Ranger Mark Shaw told The Columbian. If staff can find a few dollars, they’ll put in a disc golf course next.

Jeers: To rising property crime in Vancouver. The FBI’s preliminary crime statistics for Vancouver for the first half of 2011 showed reported property crimes rose 7.5 percent. Burglaries spiked 12.1 percent, one of the worst showings in the report. It’s easy to blame the crime on the continued lousy economy, and an analyst said it may be a factor. But nationwide, property crimes dropped. There is some good news: Violent crime reports fell both in Vancouver and nationally in the first six months of 2011.

Cheers: To gleaning. The ancient practice of going over already-harvested fields, looking for crop remnants that were missed, is alive and well in Clark County. Urban Abundance and the Clark County Food Bank teamed up to glean this fall. At one Hockinson farm, the Purple Rain Vineyard, six volunteers came up with 491.5 pounds of root vegetables, nearly all of which went to the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry in Vancouver. The fresh veggies are a welcome addition to the processed food usually available.

Jeers: To Port of Longview commissioners, who forgot that public officials need to follow the state open meetings law. According to an account by The Daily News, port commissioners called a private meeting to talk about pending litigation and real estate acquisition, both of which are legal exemptions from the general requirement that government boards meet in public. But in the meeting, the talk turned to giving raises to public employees, and such discussions in private are against the law. At least port officials realized and later admitted their mistake, earning our very secret, closed-to-the-public cheer.

Cheers: To new use for the old Koplan’s Furniture building. This will actually be at least the third distinct use for the two-story building at the corner of 11th and Washington streets. Built as a car dealership in the 1920s, for 50 years it was home to a retail furniture store before the owners closed in April 2009 as home sales plummeted. The new owners, Web design business Gravitate Design Studio, is using the building for office space. Gravitate plans to remodel the first floor to offer spaces to other small, creative companies. The old Koplan’s annex, sold to a different owner, will be used for similar purposes. These creative private-sector businesses are the types of firms that will continue to lead downtown to a new era of vitality.

Jeers: To fat Washington residents. It’s a story tailor-made for “Tonight Show” comedian Jay Leno: Washington’s Department of Transportation has had to decrease the capacity of its ferry fleet because the passengers weigh so much more than they used to. The Associated Press reported that Coast Guard stability rules in effect beginning Dec. 1 raise the estimated weight of an adult passenger from 160 pounds to 185 pounds. Just looking around, that seems like a pretty good estimate. As a result, a Puget Sound ferry that used to be rated for 2,000 passengers will now be limited to carrying about 1,750. And, yes, Jay, they sell hamburgers and french fries on board the ferries.