The Morning Press: A review of the week's news

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A look back at some of this week's top stories:

Clark County commissioners scrap parking fees at parks, boat launches

It's free to park at Clark County's parks and boat launches after Clark County commissioners approved the removal of the fees by a 2-1 vote Tuesday night.

At the end of a meeting that lasted just over three hours, Commissioners David Madore and Tom Mielke voted in favor of a resolution that removes parking fees from Frenchman's Bar Park, Lewisville Regional Park, Vancouver Lake Park, Salmon Creek/Klineline Pond, Daybreak Park & Boat Launch and Haapa Boat Launch.

Commissioner Steve Stuart voted against the resolution after offering up four proposed amendments that each died with no second vote.

Stuart said he was trying to get to the heart of the "problem we are trying to solve" by removing the barrier of access to parks for those who would otherwise not be able to afford it. He also said he was trying to protect the general fund from the cost of the resolution.

As the resolution was proposed, and eventually approved, the general fund will pay for the $325,000 annual shortfall that will result from the removal of parking fees.

Those parking fees ranged from $2 to $8.

Read the full story here.

City had asked for Pearson handover

Vancouver officials have protested as loudly as anyone about the National Park Service's takeover of Pearson Air Museum last month, yet two years ago they asked the federal agency to do just that, according to documents obtained by The Columbian.

In November 2010, at a time when the city was slashing its budget, City Manager Eric Holmes sent a letter to Fort Vancouver Superintendent Tracy Fortmann giving her notice that the city would end its 1995 agreement with the National Park Service to operate Pearson Air Museum.

In that letter, Holmes said the city would also end its contract with the Fort Vancouver National Trust to run the museum on the city's behalf.

The Park Service was prepared to take on the full cost of managing the museum, freeing the city of its financial obligation there.

"While we are laying off police officers and firefighters, closing fire stations and mothballing city parks, we can't continue to justify ongoing support of $120,000 per year on utilities, grounds and building maintenance and program support for the air museum," Holmes wrote.

Read the full story here.

Pike's bill would halt CRC funding

photoState Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas

State Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, this week introduced a bill that would halt state funding to the Columbia River Crossing and mandate a redesign of the proposed Interstate 5 Bridge replacement.

Pike said House Bill 2025 is intended to stop a CRC design that is "totally unacceptable," and find a different path forward. But the move comes as project supporters are making a major push to secure crucial state funding for the CRC this year.

Whether Pike's bill gains traction remains to be seen.

"I think we've got to go back to the drawing board … and come up with a project that the community can embrace, and have the political courage to do it," Pike said.

In addition to replacing the I-5 Bridge, the $3.4 billion CRC would rebuild freeway interchanges on both sides of the Columbia River and extend light rail into Vancouver.

Pike's bill would prohibit the Washington State Department of Transportation from spending any additional money on the CRC as planned. It would also direct the department to design a new alternative that does not include light rail, builds a third bridge in addition to the I-5 and Interstate 205 spans, and provides a bridge clearance height "that accommodates all existing and future river users and accommodates those river users' reasonable and foreseeable future needs."

Read the full story here.

Some things you may have missed:

Steigerwald reopens, recovery continues

WASHOUGAL — As Jim Clapp walked past a row of blackened willow trees, he took the thin end of a branch between two fingers. He began to bend it.

The branch didn't give much. It let out a loud snap instead, breaking off a brittle piece into his hand.

"See, that's dead," Clapp said. "It's dead."

It's been almost six months since a fire scorched nearly 150 acres of habitat at the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge. It will be longer still before the full impact of the fire is known. But a popular trail severed by the damage is now open, welcoming visitors as the refuge's natural recovery process continues.

Among the biggest changes on the Gibbons Creek Wildlife Art Trail is evident at the "willow tunnel."That's where a wooden boardwalk used to carry the trail between two rows of willow trees, sheltered by branches overhead. The structure was destroyed by the fire, and in its place now sits a simple gravel path between the trimmed, but still-charred, trees. The trail is now accessible from the reopened main entrance to the refuge from state Highway 14, just east of Washougal.

Officials had initially hoped the boardwalk could be rebuilt after the October fire. But cost estimates landed in the tens of thousands of dollars — money the refuge simply doesn't have, said Clapp, the refuge manager. Workers and volunteers ultimately used 36 tons of crushed rock for the job, donated by local construction company Tapani Underground.

Read the full story here.

Community steps up for Vancouver coffee shop hit by robbers

With warm weather and no customers yet, Toque Coffee barista Kayli Becker enjoyed the slow early morning hours of Easter Sunday.

She opened the garage door to let some fresh air in, waving to a friend who rode by on a skateboard. A regular customer stopped in about 7:30 a.m. to get her morning caffeine fix.

"We had just talked about how life throws funny things your ways," Becker, 23, said. "We share a lot of stories and she's a really great motivator to accept things and learn from them."

Moments later, Becker would be putting that advice to the test.

After she posted a picture to the coffee shop's Facebook page, inviting egg-hunters to enjoy a coffee drink, Becker saw a shadow.

"My first reaction is to pop up and say, 'Hi hello, how may I help you?'" she said.

But looking up, she saw that the man who entered was wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt and a "Scream" mask on his face. He pointed a gun at her.

Read the full story here.

Mavens query: Who is that shirtless man?: UFP – Unidentified Flexing Pecs

photo2013 Dancing with the Local Stars contestants.

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I know readers love stories about reported UFO sightings, because of the hits we get every time we do a story. So I’m going to gauge interest in an acronym I just made up: UFP, for Unidentified Flexing Pecs.

I just saw this photograph of the latest group of contestants for “Dancing with the Local Stars,” which raises money for the Fort Vancouver National Trust. Let’s see, Boy Scout is front and center — power of the press! — and in the back corner is local dude Jim Mains. No Vancouver Firefighter Mark Johnston, though. The other people I don’t know because I don’t run with the power players and business leaders of the city and … wait a second. Who is that guy with a vest, pants, dress shoes and matching belt – but is missing a shirt?

Read more All Politics is Local here.