Recreation and imagination

At a time when local government entities seem to be on a consolidation path – the Twisp and Winthrop police departments consider merging, Twisp contemplates annexation to Okanogan County Fire District 6 – along comes a proposal for a new tax-funded agency that would encompass most of the valley.

If it didn’t offer so many practical advantages for an activity-driven community, the idea probably wouldn’t get very far.

The proposed formation of a parks and recreation district covering the same area as the Methow Valley School District has the potential to provide a dependable source of funding for not only existing facilities like the Winthrop Ice & Sports Rink and the Wagner Memorial Pool in Twisp, but also for new programs that could expand opportunities for residents and visitors alike.

The idea has been researched and promoted by local residents Fred Wert, a founding member of Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, and Jay Lucas, former executive director of the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association.

The district is a long way from idea becoming implementation. Wert, Lucas and other supporters need to gather about 600 valid signatures from potential voters within the district. It’s unclear if the effort can meet county deadlines for certification and placement on the November ballot, or where the $1,000 or so required to put the proposal in front of voters would come from.

If all goes as planned, five commissioners would also be elected in November to oversee the district’s operations. Wert and Lucas anticipate that the commissioners would need about a year, with lots of community input, to develop plans and procedures. Tax levy income would not be available until 2015.

Ultimately, of course, the proposal would need to generate enough support to prevail in an election. No guarantees there.

In public presentations and one-on-one chats, Wert and Lucas have heard a lot of good questions about how the district will be administered and what kinds of things it could be involved in. The questions have been probing and thought-provoking but not generally hostile.

Wert and Lucas simply don’t have answers to many of the questions because, as they point out, so much would be left for the commissioners to decide. For that reason, they say, the public needs to take a good look for and at potential candidates.

The organizers are welcoming and encouraging more questions as they seek petition signatures. That kind of scrutiny is vital, but it would be a shame if the idea was done in by too many “what if,” and “yeah but” and “then what” objections. There is going to be some uncertainty, and the community will need to trust itself to make sure that a new government layer can be made to function efficiently for the common good.


Long trail

If you had to answer this question, it’s doubtful many of you could: How much is too much, or too little, “barren core” in a wilderness campground?

That’s one issue in dispute over the U.S. Forest Service’s proposed rules for 10-year permits that would be issued to local outfitter-guide companies. The rules have been years in the drafting, and now they may take even longer to implement.

Both the outfitters – represented by the Washington Outfitters and Guides Association – and Wilderness Watch, an environmental advocacy group, have challenged parts of the permit proposals. Each side has raised what it believes are important questions. The Forest Service said it would try to work out compromises or agreements in discussions, rather than through more paperwork and process.

Let’s hope so. For too long, the outfitters have operated without the kind of certainty that would help them manage their businesses.

Don Nelson