The sternwheeler "Columbia Gorge" was packed with dignitaries on March 8 who arrived in Cascade Locks to show their support for the city's battle against drug and alcohol abuse.
More than 60 officials from all levels of government and area service agency representatives attended the two-hour Drug Free Communities Grant Award Celebration sponsored on March 8 by Cascade Locks Interested in Kids (CLIK).
"It's time to celebrate, relax a little, and have some fun because our work's just begun," said CLIK chair Lynae Hansen.
She gave special recognition during the event to U.S. Congressman Greg Walden, R-Ore., for writing letters and speaking out in support of CLIK's request for a $400,000 federal grant through the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency.
"It starts with young people in the schools, it starts with parents and it starts with community leaders," said Walden during his address to the audience.
The special funding is earmarked for enforcement and education purposes and will be disbursed over a four-year period through CLIK. Both law enforcement officials, school personnel and service providers are enlisted in the effort to turn the tide against an encroaching substance abuse and drug trafficking problem.
"Together we can do it better," said Maija Yasui, Hood River County prevention specialist, about the new partnerships.
Walden said the federal funding allows the community of Cascade Locks to "fashion its own solution" to its unique situation.
"It's awesome for a community this small to get a grant that large and I give tremendous credit to Lynae Hansen because she has put incredible energy into this project," said Hood River County Commissioner Carol York.
During the event, Walden also praised high school junior Julie Bach, president/founder, and the other eight members of Oregon Student Safety on The Move for taking a strong stand against substance abuse in the local school.
"It is so important for you to send the message to people younger than you coming up through the ranks because they look up to you," said Walden.
Sen. Rick Metsger, D-Welches, said he was impressed once again by the community spirit that pervades Hood River County.
"I think it's a wonderful example of the sense of commitment people have throughout the county and in Cascade Locks -- it's very inspiring," said Metsger.
Cascade Locks currently ranks first in the county for unemployment and, according to law enforcement statistics, methamphetamine use among adults alone rose 500 percent between 1997 and 1999. In addition, a disproportionate number of youth from the rural town are showing up in the county's teen court for first offenses involving alcohol or drugs.
Last year the Cascade Locks City Council declared the entire community a "Drug-Free Zone" and posted warning signs at both ends of town. The new code cuts off travel for 90 days within the municipality to any resident or visitor arrested on "probable" cause" for use, sale or possession or illegal drugs.
Next month Community Resource Office Aaron Jubitz will begin meeting with Cascade Locks residents to show them three years of crime data from their neighborhoods -- much associated with drug use -- and help them work toward greater safety and security.
"There are a lot of people from vast and different organizations who are working on the liveability of Cascade Locks and I think that's exciting," said Jubitz.