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Thursday, June 1, 2023
June 1, 2023

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Cheers & Jeers: Outdoor play; more homeless

The Columbian

Cheers: To outdoors recreation. Using the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest as a backdrop, U.S. Deputy Agriculture Secretary Jewel Bronaugh this week unveiled $503 million in new funding for outdoor recreation infrastructure as part of the Great American Outdoors Act. “This administration is a champion for outdoor recreation and public access,” she said. “Outdoor recreation is such a critical part of our economy, especially our rural economy.”

That has long been evident in Washington. As part of the outdoors act, which was passed in 2020 after being shepherded by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., a Legacy Restoration Fund has been created to clear a backlog of deferred maintenance projects on U.S. public lands. Public lands are a favorite talking point of D.C. politicians; the public benefits when those politicians back that rhetoric with adequate funding.

Jeers: To increasing homelessness. Clark County’s Point in Time count, a census of homeless residents, identified 1,197 unhoused people on Feb. 24. The previous survey, in January 2020 – before the COVID-19 pandemic – counted 916. “The overall increase in homelessness definitely jumps out,” said Andy Silver of the Vancouver Housing Authority. “I think it corresponds to what we see and experience in our community with the continued increases in rent. It’s not surprising, but it’s tragic.”

Since 2020, there has been an 83 percent increase in the number of people staying in emergency shelters rather than vehicles or tents, thanks to increased capacity. And the city of Vancouver has adopted strong measures to provide housing and help those in need find some stability. The efforts have an impact, but the numbers show that continued attention is necessary.

Cheers: To the American Empress. Years after it was first expected to do so, the largest riverboat west of the Mississippi River is making stops at the Port of Camas-Washougal. The 360-foot boat, which features four decks and has room for 223 guests, is stopping at Parker’s Landing Marina twice a week, with visitors able to hop on buses and visit sites in Washougal and Camas.

The development could be a boon to the cities as they continue to forge identities as desirable tourist stops. In the process, it will benefit Clark County’s economy as a whole.

Jeers: To flooding. This week provided a reminder of how climate change will have lasting and costly consequences. Nearly a year ago, our region was facing a record heat wave; this week, there was flooding along the Columbia River. Melting snow in the Cascades combined with days of heavy rains and caused the river to overrun islands and low-lying areas along its shore.

No injuries were reported, and structures were not threatened, but we can add flooding to the list of concerns created by extreme weather events. The frequency and intensity of floods — like wildfires — is expected to increase as a result of rising temperatures, leading to questions about the long-term viability of riverfront development.

Cheers: To continuing education. Robert Weed, an 85-year-old Bend, Ore., resident, has fulfilled a lifelong dream by earning a college degree. Weed’s first try at college — in the 1950s — ended prematurely. So, after a career in radio and a career in computer supplies, he gave it another try, finishing his studies this month at Oregon State University’s Cascades campus.

As reported by The (Bend) Bulletin, Weed urges all generations to pursue higher education: “You’re never too old to learn. I’m proof of that.”