In Our View: Well-Named Awards

Local parks and recreation foundation honors volunteers and professionals

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One of the main reasons Clark County’s quality of life remains so high is the great value local residents place on parks and recreation. Instead of just talking the talk, many folks in this community have shown their willingness to walk the walk and even pay the price. In February 2005, voters in unincorporated areas approved a property tax levy that paid for maintenance of five large regional parks, 30 smaller community parks, 8 miles of trails and 41 ball fields.

Local residents also show our support for parks and recreation through attendance and participation. Reservations for facilities often close shortly after registration periods open. Youth recreation fields are continually full of players, parents and other spectators. The better the weather, the more crowded local trails become with eager walkers, cyclists and pet lovers.

So it is highly appropriate that the Parks Foundation of Clark County honors volunteers and professionals with the inaugural 2011 Florence B. Wager Awards. Before we opine on the three recipients, we’ll applaud the familiar namesake of the awards. Florence Wager has logged more hours and work for this community’s parks and recreation programs than anyone we know, extending far beyond her 14 years on the Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission. The beauty of Esther Short Park downtown is due in large part to Wager’s vision, planning and leadership. In 2005, she helped secure voter approval for that Metropolitan Parks District we mentioned earlier.

Wager knows all the powerful people here and in Olympia; she has repeatedly helped increase state parks funding for this area, showing no favoritism to any portion of the county. Two years ago, Florence was named Clark County’s First Citizen by the Community Foundation. So to grasp a statuette with your name beneath Wager’s is no small honor in this county.

In addition to the namesake of the new awards, we also like the facts that they recognize both volunteers and staff professionals, and that the accomplishments of the recipients are seen throughout the community. Three tips of The Columbian’s hat to the recipients who will receive their awards at a June 14 luncheon:

Ron Onslow: The Ridgefield mayor is the Leading Eagle Award winner after showing powerful activism in several areas of volunteerism. He coordinated volunteer efforts in the construction of Eagle’s View Park and the Blue Heron Community Garden. Onslow also helped raise money for the Ridgefield Overlook Park Project, helped improve trails in Abrams Park and directed the planting of 300 trees and native plants in Ridgefield’s parks.

John Garofalo: For the past two decades, few individuals have done more than Garofalo to bolster local recreational opportunities. He has provided more than 20 years of hard work at the Vancouver Tennis Center and was a key player in development of the Vancouver Tennis Center Foundation. Garofalo will chair the foundation’s fundraiser.

Debbi Hanson: It takes more than just a legion of busy volunteers to improve local parks. It also takes highly skilled professionals such as Battle Ground’s director of parks and recreation. Hanson has developed fitness and exercise programs for seniors, built a summer playground program and created communitywide holiday events, among many other contributions.

Clark County residents can be thankful that volunteers and professionals continue to improve local parks. Those efforts are even more crucial in tough economic times. The rest of us can show our support two ways, by making greater use of local parks, ball fields and trails, and by contacting local parks offices regarding volunteer opportunities.