Cheers: To volunteer efforts to clean up local parks and trails. Two such efforts have been recently spotlighted in The Columbian. Steve Smith is a retired lumber broker who loves Vancouver's Waterfront Renaissance Trail, and it distresses him to see weeds and other maintenance issues cropping up. So he and a group of volunteers, with the parks staff's blessing, have just started doing the work. They've pulled weeds, removed moss, spread bark dust and otherwise done tasks that government no longer performs.A few miles away, Clark College student Sarah Cayton and her friends have adopted Water Works Park as their cause. Specifically, they have targeted the amphitheater at the north end of the park, which has had almost no official use since Esther Short Park became the community's go-to place for outdoor concerts and events. The amphitheater's days are numbered -- it doesn't provide adequate access for handicapped patrons, and the land it sits on will be needed for a water project -- but Cayton is trying to keep it well-kept.
Jeers: To ongoing financial problems with the U.S. Postal Service. As with most federal problems these days, the bitter partisan wrangling in Congress deserves much of the blame for the inability to put this vital service back on a sustainable path. The postal service, which relies on sales of postage and other user fees for its revenue, is in danger of defaulting on billions of dollars owed to the U.S. Treasury. There is considerable debate surrounding these payments, but there's no doubt that the electronic age has diminished the volume of lucrative first-class mail, competition from package carriers like FedEx and UPS is keen, and Congress has failed to act. A solution needs to be found before long-term damage is done.
Cheers: To the Clark County Veterans Assistance Center. This nonprofit group, which is run from a downtown office at 1305 Columbia St., successfully organized the annual Veterans Stand-Down event. About 150 veterans were served at the event, which was held for the first time at the new Armed Forces Reserve Center east of Orchards. The event provides physical support for veterans in need of assistance -- everything from haircuts to a hot meal -- and connection to agencies offering long-term support and resources.
Jeers: To an uncertain future for the historic Jantzen Beach Carousel. Long before it became a cluster of retail businesses and hotels, Jantzen Beach was home to a large amusement park and swimming center. The carousel, built in 1921 by the legendary firm of C.W. Parker, was a part of the park, and later a centerpiece of the enclosed shopping mall that replaced it. Today the mall has been flattened, as the owners seek a new retail formula popular with today's shoppers, and the carousel has been carefully put into climate-controlled storage by the mall's owners. But its reappearance is uncertain; the mall's current site plan doesn't identify a new home for it. The mall's manager recently told The Oregonian there are too many unanswered questions to identify a home for the carousel at the moment, including what land the Columbia River Crossing project might need.
Cheers: To Nautilus Inc. The Vancouver maker of fitness equipment was roughed up by the recession as consumers postponed want-to purchases and concentrated on paying down their credit cards and avoiding mortgage foreclosure. Times still aren't robust, but Nautilus is hanging in there, showing a profit in recent quarters and seeing its stock rebound. The company is in the process of moving to new, smaller quarters in the Columbia Tech Center campus, and looking ahead to a positive future with its nearly 300 employees.