Our Voice: Thumbs up to Port of Benton for managing Crow Butte Park

March 30, 2014 

Public recreation

To Port of Benton commissioners for approving an update to Crow Butte Park' s 20-year master plan.

The plan's $3.9 million worth of projects includes a new playground, expanding the popular RV campsite and adding more boat slips.

The park, which is on a 1,500-acre island in the Columbia River 12 miles west of Paterson on Highway 14, features a campground with about 54 RV spaces that are full most of the summer. The RVs can hook up to electricity, sewer and water. There is also a swimming area and a marina.

The success of this oasis is a testament to the can-do spirit of rural Eastern Washington.

It had been a state park on land leased from the Army Corps of Engineers until 2002, when the state announced plans to let the lease lapse and close the park in an effort to save money.

A volunteer group of farmers formed the Crow Butte Association and took over park operations in 2003. When the costs proved too high for the volunteers, the association convinced the Port of Benton to take over the lease in hopes it could then apply for grants.

The move paid off. Construction is almost completed on 12 new boat slips, widening the boat launch and adding a fish-cleaning station and restrooms at Crow Butte Park marina. The $720,000 project is completely covered by a state grant.

It's a smart investment. The port receives about $100,000 to $150,000 a year in revenue from the park and expects to see that increase.

Just as importantly, Crowe Butte provides recreational opportunities that attract employers and employees to the county. It's why farmers in the area were willing to foot the bill to keep it open.

It's a bright future for a park that was put on life support a dozen years ago.

Public largesse

To the state Senate Facilities and Operations Committee's 4-3 vote to increase by $30 the amount senators may collect each day for expenses while the Legislature is in session.

Our pan doesn't extend to Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler of Ritzville, who was one of the three to vote against boosting the per diem rate to $120. Sen. Sharon Brown of Kennewick also announced she wouldn't accept the increase.

"This decision sends the wrong message to taxpayers, Schoesler said. "Also, considering the Legislature has yet to grant pay increases to teachers and other state employees, it's premature and irresponsible for this committee to approve a 33 percent increase in the per diem."

That's extra money to cover expenses while in Olympia -- on top of the $42,000 annual salary we already pay state lawmakers.

Schoesler said he won't accept the increase. Other legislators should follow his lead.

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