C. Locks tackles booze abuse

By SUE RYAN

News staff writer

May 27, 2006

The “Bum's Castle” can not be seen from shore. Trees and brush have grown over the concrete shell and partial roof of the former mill site along the banks of the Columbia River near Cascade Locks. But youth know how to find the way there and the community wants it torn down.

Greg Hauer directs the Cascade Locks Interested in Kids (CLIK) group, which identified the castle as a known party hangout during a recent community forum. He said the building's location without a road, accessible only from the river or by trespassing along railroad tracks means youth know they can party without interruption.

“Not a lot of parents and law enforcement are going to go down there and bust it up,” he said.

Hauer referred to the fact that Cascade Locks uses sheriff's deputies from Hood River County as there is not a town police force.

The focus on “Bum's Castle” came from the first of three forums held to address underage drinking in the community. The second one will be held Tuesday night.

The CLIK group received a $1,000 grant to conduct the forums, similar to a daylong event held in Hood River in February. But Hauer said because of the fact that the majority of the community commute to work out of town during the day that CLIK chose to hold the forums in the evenings during a series of months instead of in one day.

The effort is the latest action under a national Substance and Mental Health Abuse administration program in Cascade Locks.

Local historian Jean McLean said the buildings are the remnant of the early mill trade along the river in the 1900s. Port manager Chuck Daughtry said the port has the building earmarked for demolition but part of the holdup comes from its precarious location between railroad tracks and river and relatively close to houses.

“It's an expensive proposition because it has to be done from the river with a boat and crane,” he said.

CLIK president Karen Peck said demolishing the building might be a start but doesn't solve the issue entirely.

“It won't make kids drinking go away,” she said.

She agreed the process is a start, to identify three to five actions the community can take to deal with the problem. Hauer said the sessions are not just adults coming up with solutions but youth as well.

“We spread the youth among the tables (at the Mar. 28 forum) to affirm rumors of drinking,” he said. “We need to admit there is a problem, there is a denial issue here as well.”

Peck said that denial includes parents not wanting to admit how young or how much youth are drinking. She said during a poll at the March 28 meeting that children said they knew of peers drinking as early as age nine or indulging in binge drinking.

Hauer said it's not a unique issue to the town but one that needs to be seriously addressed.

“I think we realize we need to start earlier, by middle school, to educate them about alcohol,” he said. “By high school, it's too late.”

The group brought up other issues including forming a support group for youth similar to Ala-teen and to crack down on people who buy or provide alcohol to minors.

“To make parents aware of legal ramifications in giving kids alcohol,” said Peck.

Hauer said he thinks some parents assume that if their children are going to drink anyway, it's best to at least have them do it at home where the parents can monitor the situation.

“It becomes tacit approval,” he said. “I think a lot of parents don't realize is it's not just your teenager stealing beer out of the fridge anymore.”

He called the first session an “incredible success” as it drew more than 80 people. He hopes for as many or more at Tuesday's session.

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