The drive around Philomath this week features a common denominator — our youth.
Staying safe getting off and on school buses, a very cool park that will open soon and the annual PYAC carnival all caught my attention as topics that I wanted to take on for stories.
Beyond what you read in those features, here are some viewpoints and more specifics within a more conversational column format.
Now, let’s get on with the drive.
First stop — Highway 20 just west of Lone Star Road
Mid-Columbia bus drivers deal with unpredictable drivers on a daily basis. After interviewing Denise Conner for a story about a near epidemic of motorists ignoring a bus’s flashing reds, I headed out to the highway to shoot photos of her most problematic stop.
On this occasion, only one car was behind the bus and it stopped. But that’s not always the case as I write about in a story that appears on this week’s front page.
Conner’s only been a school bus driver for less than a year, hired last December and passing the driver’s test in January. She loves her job and is one of three Mid-Columbia employees on a safety committee.
“At our meetings that we (the committee) have with the whole team, we do a reminder about what do you do if you pass a stop and this is how you correctly handle that in a safe manner. What do you do if a child is asleep on your bus? What do you do if somebody runs your red lights?”
It’s great that safety training takes on the upmost importance at the bus company transporting our students around town and on trips. We’ve all experienced craziness on the roads and highways around here. Oregon has a reputation of having kind and considerable drivers but believe me, we also have our aggressive motorists who believe their vehicles are a whole lot more important on the road than yours. Get out of their way or you might see headlights in your rear-view or you might even get passed on a double-yellow line.
A lot of these same drivers definitely don’t want to get stuck behind a school bus. I like how Denise put it during our talk.
“These are all safety things, we are transporting literally the future and people’s babies, their children,” Conner said. “I can’t imagine how I would feel if I put my daughter on a school bus and saw somebody run the school bus’s red lights — it’s dangerous.”
Let’s hope the kids stay safe, which they will with the training that our school bus drivers receive.
Quick visit — Philomath City Park
Following passage of an $80,000 bond levy in November 1998, Philomath moved forward with the construction of a skate park. Less than two years later during the summer of 2000, the new spot for skateboarders and inline skaters opened in Philomath City Park.
According to a story in June 2000 about the skate park, local skaters helped with the design to be used by individuals of many different skill levels. This past summer, the city’s Park Advisory Board was approached with suggestions on changes to the 19-year-old park.
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“We had a newer resident to town that came and talked to the park board, just a general request about what it would take to make some improvements to the skate park,” City Manager Chris Workman said. “It generated the question, ‘well, how much of a demand is there for the skate park?”
As a result, the board is working on a survey to put out to the public about demand for the park and also what improvements they might want to see. Look for the survey to be distributed within the next month or two through the city’s newsletter, social media and website.
One of the issues that’s come up, Workman said, is making the park a little more inviting to beginners.
“The argument that this new resident made when they came and talked to the Park Advisory Board was that some of the features of the park are actually more difficult,” Workman said. “You have to be more of a veteran skateboarder to do some tricks on the equipment there and if it was a little more entry level, then maybe it would get more usage.”
The resident skateboarder said he and his son go to parks in Corvallis or Albany just because they are a bit easier to use.
More on this to come. Workman and Park Advisory Board member Spencer Irwin are working on putting together the survey.
Final stop — Philomath High School
For the third time in its 12-year history, the Philomath Youth Activities Club’s Community Carnival was moved inside.
Organizers would rather stage the event — large inflatables are the main attraction — out on Clemens Field. But on Thursday morning, they made the call to move the Friday night event inside the high school.
“It went back and forth and we made the decision early yesterday morning,” PYAC director Eddie Van Vlack said Friday. “If it’s outside, we usually have somewhere between 12 and 15 inflatables and if we come inside, we have eight to 12. This year we have 10, so it varies a little bit.”
Van Vlack said the choice really comes down to Rick Bennett, who owns S&K Inflatables and Wacky Indoor Bounce, and donates them every year to make the fundraiser a success. One of the issues that comes up is if the inflatables get wet, it can create problems with storage (which happened a few years back with the Titanic inflatable). If PYAC had to rent them, Van Vlack estimated that the cost would be $6,000 to $7,000.
The carnival was an indoor event in its very first year in 2008 when it was in the middle school gym and under the outside covered area. In 2013, the carnival was moved inside because of rain.
“The first year after the high school renovations were done, we had to bring it inside,” Van Vlack said. “I remember it was such a big deal. Everybody was so scared to death and nervous about bringing inflatables into a brand new gym.”
But Bennett has vast experience setting up the bouncy houses on those surfaces.
“They’re actually a little bit easier to set up inside because you don’t have Mother Nature to deal with and you have extra space and access to power and access to tables and chairs,” Van Vlack said. “But it’s not as enjoyable because you don’t have the same atmosphere as when you do when you’re on the football field and you see 500 people actively involved.”
Van Vlack didn’t expect the net proceeds to be as high this year since it was inside.
“Our numbers will be down, there’s no doubt in my mind,” he said as the event was just getting started at 5:30. “It won’t be as good if it had been outside.”
Brad Fuqua is editor of the Philomath Express. He can be reached at email@example.com or 503-480-6919.