When thinking of quality-of-life amenities in Yakima, one of the first that pops to mind is the Yakima Greenway. Daily you see everyone from families with toddlers to serious athletes moving by foot or on human-powered wheels along the Greenway’s 10-mile-long pathway, which connects a string of riverside parks and ponds. The Greenway also has a path heading to Yakima from Naches and is working in phases to connect the two.
While the Greenway path can be a respite from the worries of the world, it is not immune to mischief. And Yakima’s problems and perceptions about crime also spill over onto the Greenway.
In both Yakima and on the Greenway, the prospect of a violent confrontation is low, but incidences of property crimes are higher than people would like to see. Most days, cars parked at Greenway parking lots sit undisturbed. But every few months or so, a bout of break-ins and vandalism hits unattended vehicles in the lots.
Pretty soon, the lots will be attended to, at least remotely. The city of Yakima has agreed to install lights and surveillance cameras at the parking areas off Fruitvale Boulevard near North 40th Avenue, at the north end of 16th Avenue and near the old Boise Cascade site. The plan is expected to cost about $96,000.
The city doesn’t have to take this step. The path and its parks are funded, operated and maintained by a separate entity, the Yakima Greenway Foundation, which gets some help from the city and Yakima County. But Yakima City Manager Tony O’Rourke, who has been in town less than a year, notes the recreational value of the Greenway and recognizes that many Yakima-size cities don’t offer such an amenity. “It’s a real plus,” he told City Council members last week before they approved the money.
There won’t be real-time monitoring of the cameras, though police will use their video should a crime be reported. The effort should help with the public’s perception of safety as well as serve as a deterrent — especially once a miscreant gets apprehended as a result of the cameras, and the resulting word gets out.
The necessity of the parking lots points to a different recreational need in Yakima. The city could use more sidewalks and pathways that connect with the Greenway — and each other — and eliminate the need for citizens to use their cars in order to use their legs. Put that down on a wish list for the long term — and for when funding may be available.
In the meantime, the city’s effort is a small but meaningful step toward improving the quality of life in the Yakima Valley.
• Members of the Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board are Sharon J. Prill, Bob Crider, Frank Purdy and Karen Troianello.