June Cheers & Jeers

This month’s Cheers & Jeers is coming in a little late, so we have plenty of news to talk about. Let’s kick it off with a few well-deserved CHEERS:

  • To the families and customers who raised more than $20,000 to help the Park family from Hana Foods, a Korean cuisine and teriyaki restaurant in the heart of downtown Camas, after owner Phillip Park and his mother, Agnes Park, Hana’s main cook, were injured in a kitchen accident in early May. The rapid fundraising effort, courtesy of a GoFundMe account set up by Downtown Camas Association Executive Director Carrie Schulstad, was a testament to the Park family’s friendly service and delicious food.
  • To all of the Camas-Washougal high school graduates who are moving on to the next phase of their lives. We covered the graduation ceremonies at Camas, Washougal and Hayes Freedom high schools in the June 21 issue of The Post-Record, and loved hearing the wisdom coming from the graduation speakers, including class valedictorians. At Washougal High, Principal Aaron Hansen asked his outgoing seniors to describe their graduating class. Their answers — resilient, dedicated, multi-talented and kind — are the things many teens cannot yet see in themselves, so CHEERS to these young people for being able to recognize the good in themselves and their peers.
  • To the Friends of the Columbia Gorge group for their “Explore the Gorge” outdoor school program, which helps groups of Washougal sixth graders get out into nature each year and learn about their region’s history, culture and environment — and to the donors and board members that allow the Camas-Washougal Community Chest to fund this event.
  • To the never-give-up advocates of public art in Washougal, especially former Washougal City Councilwoman Joyce Lindsay and other members of the Washougal Arts and Culture Alliance. From the handmade birdhouses (another CHEERS to the Jemtegaard Middle School students who painted the most recent additions) outside Washougal City Hall to the sculptural elements dotted throughout the city, Washougal’s public art humanizes Washington State’s “Entrance to the Columbia River Gorge,” is accessible to everyone, no matter their age or income level, and connects people to Washougal’s past, present and future.

OK. So, that’s the good news. But, from the mayor of Camas announcing his sudden resignation to teachers upset about bargaining negotiations in both local school districts, June has been the opposite of a “slow news” month, so we do have a few JEERs to add:

  • To the possible influx of folks into “our side” of the Columbia River Gorge. If you visited the Oregon side of the gorge in recent years — before 2017’s devastating Eagle Creek Fire, of course — you may have noticed that hikers and waterfall seekers had started to, as the Friends of the Columbia Gorge group so politely put it: love the gorge too much. On a few warm days during summer months in recent years, you had to literally line up at Olalla Falls Gorge. It reminded some people less of being out in nature and more of queuing up with a few dozen sweaty strangers at Disneyland. We get it: the gorge is a natural wonderland and being out there helps soothe the soul. But as the Portland/Vancouver metro area gets more and more crowded, stress on the gorge is becoming apparent. Now that many Oregon trails are closed, or perhaps open but not as lush as they once were, the fact is that hundreds of people are going to turn their attention north. We can only hope they love the Washington gorge a little more by “loving it” a little less often.
  • A final JEERS goes out to the Camas City Council for taking the easy way out of the fireworks debate. As Mayor Scott Higgins noted, the issue is something that seems to come up every year in Camas. Most letter writers and commenters from this year’s debate seemed to be against discharging personal fireworks within city limits. They made strong arguments for the emotional health of their neighbors and pets, spoke about the environmental impact and possible fire risks and implored city leaders to do what many other Southwest Washington cities — including Vancouver and Washougal — have done and crack down on the extreme personal fireworks. Vancouver banned all personal fireworks, while Washougal has limited them to “safe and sane” items that don’t sound like war has broken out or rain sizzling sparks down on nearby roofs and trees. On the other hand, many of the fireworks supporters were the people who sell personal fireworks and folks who just like to throw a party in their neighborhood. Their arguments weren’t nearly as strong as the anti-fireworks’ crowd, but city leaders decided to compromise and not take a clear stand: voting to reduce the number of days for legal fireworks from three to two and imposing stricter fees and penalties for violators. It was a bit of a cop-out and probably ensured the issue will rear its explosive head again next year.