by Cara Gardner and Pia K. Hansen

Trash Talk -- SPOKANE -- Diapers, candy wrappers, paper, plastic bags, construction waste -- you name it, they've found it. The Department of Ecology's Ecology Youth Corps (EYC) has hired about 400 teens between ages 14 and 17 to clean and pick up trash along Washington's freeway shoulders and medians this summer. The EYC also has about 40 adults working with the teens to ensure their safety, and it urges motorists to heed the road signs, "Ecology Youth Working."

"These are kids from your neighborhood," says Gary Lambacher, coordinator for the EYC in eastern Washington. "Their safety is our first concern, and we need help from drivers to pay extra close attention around crews. They're really doing us all a great service."

Lambacher is working with 95 young people from the Spokane area.

"They pick up pretty much everything except things that are considered hazardous, like broken glass, drug paraphernalia and any liquids in containers," he explains.

That's why numerous soda and water bottles thrown out of car windows stay on the roadside. "We have a big problem with people not stopping to go to the bathroom, and going in jars," Lambacher says.

Last year, the litter crews picked up more than 975,000 pounds of trash from Washington's highways. Department of Ecology estimates show that a vast majority of the trash could easily have been recycled or properly disposed of in other ways.

Littering can draw fines up to $950. Fines for illegal dumping are $1,000 to $5,000 plus jail time.

To report a trash-throwing driver, call 866-LITTER-1

Holiday Sparks -- SPOKANE -- State and local agencies throughout the Inland Northwest are doing their best to make sure the flashing lights you see tomorrow during the Fourth of July celebration are fireworks -- not the lights of police cars, ambulances or fire trucks.

Washington State Fire Marshal Anjela Foster is urging people to be prepared, safe and responsible.

"In 2002, we had 136 injuries consisting of first-, second- and third-degree burns, trauma and amputations as a result of fireworks in the State of Washington," says Foster. "About three-quarters of those are actually due to illegal fireworks. The material that's used in [illegal fireworks], called flash powder, is more dangerous. We also have people making homemade fireworks, and we have increased injuries because of those."

Estimates coming from the Spokane Fire Department say the statewide fireworks ban saves lives and hundreds of thousands of taxpayers' dollars. In the 10 years prior to the ban, the department reported 1,043 firework-related fires and 290 fireworks-related injuries. Since the ban, those numbers have dropped to 46 and 37, respectively.

"It's [also] a big drinking holiday," says Cpl. Dave Reagan, spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff's office. "In 2002, we had 10 vehicle collisions and nine DUIs. This does not include the City of Spokane, Cheney or Medical Lake."

Joe Albi Expansion -- SPOKANE -- Next week, the Parks and Recreation Department is holding the first in a series of three public workshops about an expanded sports complex to be built at Joe Albi Stadium.

In the late '90s, the Park Board purchased 30 acres south of the Northpointe Shopping Center. The plan was to build a softball field there, but that fell apart, says Paul Crutchfield, administrative assistant with Parks and Rec. "The Park Board then went to the voters and asked for permission to sell the property, under the condition that the money be used to expand the area around Joe Albi stadium."

The land was sold to Wal-Mart, which now operates a store there. The sale brought in about $3.4 million, which can now be used around Joe Albi.

"We are looking to create a facility with some income-producing elements," says Crutchfield. "In plain English, that means we can't afford to run recreation facilities at a loss. Swimming pools typically operate at a loss."

A softball complex, batting cages and sand volleyball courts have already been suggested, but now is a good time for people to come with other ideas.

"We're not at all sure how this will fit together," says Crutchfield. "We are having these workshops to bring up those ideas."

The first workshop is on Thursday, July 10, from 6-8 pm at the Champions Room in the Spokane Arena, 720 W. Mallon. The next two workshops will be announced at that time. Call: 625-6455.

Publication date: 07/03/03

Christmas Tree Elegance Holiday Luncheons @ Historic Davenport Hotel

Tue., Dec. 6, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and Wed., Dec. 7, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
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