Cheers: To the Vancouver Farmers Market. Though the weather might have said winter, the popular outdoor market’s return last weekend for its 2012 season shows spring and summer are surely just around the corner. The market is open 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays at its home on Sixth and Esther streets west of Esther Short Park. The lineup is familiar -- prepared food, crafts, plant starts and winter veggies now; more fresh produce later -- but market managers hope to add fresh fish, cheese and dairy this year.Jeers: To more legal wrangling over those salmon-loving sea lions at Bonneville Dam. In what surely must be the most drawn-out and costliest court battle in pinniped history, a judge gave the government limited permission Thursday to resume killing sea lions that ignore human hazing and continue to eat the endangered fish. The judge limited the take to 30 animals per year, compared with the 98 that had been previously decided upon by the federal government. An animal rights group has filed yet another lawsuit, so don’t expect this battle to be decided soon.
Cheers: To the new disc golf course at Paradise Point State Park near La Center. This park, under-appreciated probably because it partly lies under Interstate 5, now boasts what organizers believe is the first such course at any Washington State Park. Disc golf resembles its country-club cousin, but is played with flying discs that carry brand names such as Frisbee. Rather than a cup, there is an elevated goal, and the lawns don’t have to be as manicured as on a golf course. Dr. William and Sandra Bennett donated the $5,000 needed to bring the nine-hole course to fruition after reading a Columbian story about the volunteers who were trying to build it. Two miles of trails were also added to the park recently, giving the public more reason to visit.
Jeers: To driving drunk, particularly with children in the car. Now this outrageous behavior will be an aggravating factor when intoxicated drivers are prosecuted. Gov. Gregoire signed a bill this week that requires courts to impose an additional $1,000 to $5,000 fine for first-time DUI convictions if a passenger in the vehicle is younger than 16. Repeat offenders will receive higher additional fines. “This is something we can do to protect our children,” said Linda Thompson of Mothers Against Drunk Driving when the bill got a hearing. She knows the pain first-hand: Her 3-year-old child was killed by a drunk driver in 1986.
Cheers: To new classrooms, gymnasiums and play areas for Ridgefield public schools. The district’s voters recently approved a $47 million bond measure that will fund some long-awaited improvements at four schools on three campuses. School administrators now say major construction will begin next year and they hope it will completed in time for the 2014-15 school year. The work will start at Union Ridge Elementary and View Ridge Middle schools, where the planning is farthest along. In all, the bond will pay for 18 to 24 new classrooms, two gyms, and additional space in school cafeterias and for music programs. The high school football field will get synthetic turf and the track will be resurfaced, and there will be other lighting and audio-video projects.
Jeers: To delayed repairs to the giant flagpole that flies above the Clark County Fairgrounds. The flagpole and American flag are likely the largest in the county, and are clearly visible from Interstate 5. Lately, though, the flag has been stuck at half-staff and not illuminated appropriately. It turns out that the county isn’t the culprit. It’s AT&T. The telecom provider actually hides cellular phone antennas inside the pole, and in return agrees to maintain the flag and the pole. The county’s general services manager says the corporation was aware of the problems and planned to make needed repairs as soon as weather permits.