by Cara Gardner

Campy Crowds -- OLYMPIA, Wash. - The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission is recommending campers gear up for a busy Memorial Day weekend. Dust off your gear and whip out your guidebooks, camping season has begun.

"I think the most important thing for campers is to make their reservations, if they haven't already," says Thuy Luu-Beams, public information officer with the state parks commission. "About half our parks are first come, first serve. With those parks, the best thing to do is get to the parks as early as possible."

As of January 2003, visitors to state parks in Washington must pay a $5 fee for daily parking or $50 for an annual permit. This includes the Bowl and Pitcher at Riverside State Park and Mt. Spokane State Park.

Luu-Beams adds that part of a positive camping experience is maintaining the nature around us.

"Stay on properly marked trails, which helps with the local environment," says Luu-Beams. "There are some parks where you may need to carry out your garbage. If you are in one of those, there will be signs."

To reserve a campsite and equipment, call 888-CAMPOUT, seven days a week from 7 am to 8 pm. Campsite reservations can also be made online, and visitors can view maps at

Child Directory -- SPOKANE - A guide based on the requests of parents and schools, the 2003 Spokane Area Child Care Directory, is the first of its kind in the state of Washington. The directory offers organized listing of child-care options by zip code and elementary school. Sponsored by Family Care Resources and the Spokane Regional Health District, the directory includes hundreds of child-care listings for children 0-12 years old.

The 66-page directory also includes information about a variety of child-care topics, including immunizations, child passenger restraint laws and programs for children with special health care needs.

"Not only is it a great tool for parents to see who is offering child care," says Kathy Thamm, executive director of Family Care Resources, "but the articles can help parents learn how to choose quality care for their child."

The 2003 Spokane Area Child Care Directory was delivered to public libraries, pediatric doctors and dentists, and agencies that serve families and directory sponsors. Hospitals, schools, community centers, realtors and businesses are also receiving the free directory.

"Secretaries in school offices around the county are thrilled to have a list," says Melanie Rose, public relations officer for the Spokane Regional Health District. "It's a wonderful reference tool. I think it will be useful for many people throughout the county."

Individuals and organizations may request the 2003 Spokane Area Child Care Directory by calling 242-2399, or by visiting the Spokane Regional Health District at 1101 W. College Avenue or 10814 E. Broadway in the Spokane Valley.

Serious About Gun Safety -- SPOKANE - Two men were hospitalized after being shot last weekend in Spokane Valley. Guns were the weapons of choice in nearly half of Spokane County's record 23 homicides last year.

"There have been about 125 reported gun-involved incidents in Spokane County since the beginning of 2003," says County Sheriff's spokesman, Dave Regan. "And that's not counting the City of Spokane."

Numbers like these are familiar to federal, state and local law enforcement officers and prosecutors, who are diligently working to kick off Project Safe Neighborhoods, a program aimed to curb gun violence. The program, coordinated through the office of the U.S. Attorney for Eastern Washington, collaborates with law enforcement and the court system to arrest and prosecute those involved with gun violence. Under Project Safe Neighborhoods, criminals with guns will get the maximum penalties available.

Nearly $1.5 million in federal grant money will be invested in Eastern Washington's Project Safe Neighborhoods program. This includes money for intelligence-driven enforcement, community education and public service announcements. Two federal prosecutors as well as two deputy prosecuting attorneys in Spokane County have been hired to specifically focus on firearms prosecution in Eastern Washington.

"The message is simple," says County Sheriff Mark Sterk. "If you commit a gun crime, we will catch you and put you in prison for a long time."

Publication date: 05/08/03

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