Cheers & Jeers: Outside play; extra homeless

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Cheers: To the outdoor recreation. With the backdrop of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, US Assistant Secretary of Agriculture Jewel Bronaugh this week unveiled $503 million in new funding for outdoor recreation infrastructure under the Great American Outdoors Act. “This administration is an advocate for outdoor recreation and public access,” she said. “Outdoor recreation is such an important part of our economy, especially our rural economy.”

That has long been evident in Washington. As part of the Outdoors Act, passed in 2020 after being chaired by Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., a Legacy Restoration Fund was established to help clear a backlog of deferred maintenance projects on public lands in the United States. Public lands are a popular topic of conversation for DC politicians; the public benefits when these politicians support this rhetoric with appropriate means.

Jeers: To the increasing homelessness. The Clark County Point-in-Time Census, a census of homeless residents, identified 1,197 homeless people as of February 24. The previous survey in January 2020 – before the COVID-19 pandemic – counted 916. “The overall increase in homelessness is definitely jumping out,” said Andy Silver of the Vancouver Housing Authority. “I think it aligns with what we’re seeing and experiencing in our community with the ongoing rent increases. It’s not surprising, but it’s tragic.”

Since 2020, the number of people staying in emergency shelters rather than vehicles or tents has increased by 83 percent thanks to increased capacity. And the city of Vancouver has taken tough measures to provide housing and help those in need find some stability. The efforts are having an impact, but the numbers show that further attention is needed.

Cheers: To the American Empress. Years after first expectation, the largest riverboat west of the Mississippi arrives at the port of Camas-Washougal. The 223-guest, 360-foot, four-deck boat makes twice-weekly stops at Parker’s Landing Marina, where visitors can board buses and visit attractions in Washougal and Camas.