In our view: Cheers & Jeers

Biotech company bolsters Camas; public forest needs public access

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Cheers: To Alpha-Tec Systems' plan for a 42,000-square-foot facility on Northwest Camas Meadows Drive. The biotech company, which specializes in medical diagnostic systems, already operates in Clark County, so it won't be a newcomer when it brings 50 jobs to its new facility. But it's worth noting that Camas has been wooing the company for five years. Not coincidentally, that's about the same time the Great Recession started. So we'll take this as yet another sign that although the local economy still cannot be described as thriving, more and more business owners are moving ahead with their long-stalled expansion plans. Perhaps this "I'm not waiting any longer" attitude, multiplied across different industries, will ease our persistently high unemployment.

Jeers: To a public forest preserve with almost no public access. The Lauretta Norene Forest Preserve is tucked away off a dead-end road in Brush Prairie, not far from the Battle Ground School District's Center for Agricultural, Scientific and Environmental Education. The forested parcel, 84 acres in all, was donated to Clark County in 1992 in memory of a woman whose family lived there for decades.

Well-kept trails meander through a lush second-growth forest. But there's almost no public access. The proper way to get there is to walk in from the south, across a county-owned field at the end of Northeast 97th Avenue. The easiest way, however, is off some privately owned roads posted with "No Trespassing" signs.

The county admits access is poor, but claims it has no money -- even after owning the land for more than 20 years -- to build an access road. Meanwhile the neighbors have to put up with frequent trespassing, and the public has little opportunity to enjoy the forest as its donors intended. County commissioners should solve this problem before another decade, or two, elapses.

Cheers: To a fifth year of Sensory Camp. Day camps are a staple of suburban family summers, but children who fall on the autism spectrum or have other sensory integration disorders may not be able to enjoy most of them. Regular camp activities are too intense for these youngsters, who can become overstimulated.

That's where Sensory Camp comes in. The camp offers many of the summer day camp favorites, but tailored to the special needs of its children. There's a low-stimulation room, and ways for kids to take a break when they need one.

The camp has survived the many cuts suffered by Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation thanks to the dedication of parents who have raised thousands of dollars to keep it running. Vancouver Public Schools has helped, too, and parents pay $170 per week tuition to send their children. The camp runs weekdays through Aug. 16 at Minnehaha Elementary School; there are waiting lists for camp slots. For more information: http://sensorycamp.org.

Jeers: To the difficulty in applying the Northwest Forest Plan. Brokered by President Clinton in 1994, it was supposed to end the spotted owl wars by ensuring federal forests would receive environmental protection and that local economies would receive a sustainable federal timber harvest that would keep mills running and people employed.

It hasn't worked that way, of course. That's what brought Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell to Skamania County this week as a guest of Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas. They held a roundtable and talked about the troubles with the plan, and the difficulties involved in bringing more logs out of the government's forest. Acknowledging the problem provides at least some hope that a solution may be found in the future. Let's hope so. Skamania County's economy depends on it.