New Gorge Commission Recreation Committee sees high interest from community

A new committee created specifically to address the high demands of the recreation landscape throughout the Columbia River Gorge gained ample attention from community groups and landowners at its first meeting.

The Columbia River Gorge Commission recently appointed six commissioners to its recreation committee, but only two were in attendance at its first meeting on Monday. Lorrie DeKay, the recreation committee’s chairperson, and Commissioner Janet Wainwright attended the meeting along with Angie Brewer, senior regional planner on the Gorge Commission staff who was on hand to offer guidance to the group.

Commissioners Bowen Blair, Gorham Blaine, Keith Chamberlin, as well as ex officio member Lynn Burdett are also on the recreation committee, but were unable to attend the first meeting.

Despite the attendance of only two committee members, a robust conversation flowed throughout the meeting due to the presence of representatives from groups and landowners with a vested interest in recreation from all over the Gorge.

Landowners concerned about property rights versus use by hikers and other recreationists, the Friends of the Columbia River Gorge, the Port of Skamania County, the Cape Horn Conservancy and the Stevenson City Council were all represented at Monday’s meeting.

“The reality is, and I think this is evidenced by the number of people here today, that this is an issue that needs public engagement. I would concur with you that private landowners, school systems, county government, and nonprofits all need to be engaged in this process, and it’s going to be a messy process,” said Keith Brown, chairman of the board of directors for The Friends of the Gorge. “We all have different issues, but all of us are here because it’s important and regardless of how you approach this, the hikers aren’t going to stop coming.”

The management plan the Gorge Commission uses to keep track of the multiple resources throughout the Gorge, including the vast recreational landscape here, was brought up as a priority on Monday. Portions of the management plan, which was originally finalized in 1991, were updated in 2004, but the part of the plan relating to recreation was untouched.

That means all growth when it comes to recreation in the Gorge since the late 1980s is largely unaccounted for within the current recreation chapter of the Gorge Commission’s management plan. The Commission’s executive director, Darren Nichols, has stated in the past that the management plan is ideally updated every 10 years and that he simply lacks the staff and resources to examine and modernize it as often as it should be.

“There is the recognition that what we’ve got right now isn’t working like we need it to, but there are good intentions behind all of it. We all want resource protection, we all want something that will bring folks to the region to visit and help support the communities, we all want respect for the resources, respect for private landowners,” Brewer said. “It’s literally a balancing act of resource protection and respect for the landowners and we simply do not have the staff or the planning process in place that needs to be there to do it well.”

The first portion of the committee’s agenda entailed identifying which community groups would be interested in offering input on recreation in the Gorge and building ties with those groups. For those commissioners in attendance, those agenda items were easily taken care of by the engagement of the representative groups that showed up on Monday, but in future meetings, tackling the funding and resource issues the commission is facing as a whole will have to be placed front and center.

“The Gorge Commission needs to be involved in these recreation issues and we need to be seen as adding value to the whole conversation,” Wainwright said. “If we’re a hardworking committee then we will hopefully achieve some goals to take to show the states. I’m a Washington State appointee and I want to be able to show my governor and the governor’s staff that we are actually working on these issues. Recreation is a huge, huge issue for Gov. Inslee. He understands the challenges and he understands the opportunities and I know he is very interested in the Gorge.”

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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