OLYMPIA - In a united front, the 19th District legislative team of Rep. Dean Takko, D-Longview, Rep. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen, and Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, kicked off the 2009 Legislative Session working to protect the Naselle Youth Camp after Gov. Gregoire proposed closing the facility in her 2009-2011 budget.
A medium-security facility that houses male and female offenders in an unfenced setting, Naselle Youth Camp blends an academic curriculum with a forestry program in collaboration with the Department of Natural Resources and an aquaculture program with the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
"Families across America are hurting, and our community is no exception. Closing the youth camp and stopping the amazing programs there would be a devastating blow to families and communities across southwest Washington," said Hatfield. "When we're trying to recover and rebuild our economy, it just goes against common sense to destroy a community like this."
Hatfield noted that youths in the forestry program assist in firefighting during the height of the fire season. The camp also provides sex offender and outpatient chemical dependency treatment in collaboration with the University of Washington.
In addition to the services it provides, the school is the center of the local economy. The school also is the only facility to offer the full range of treatment, rehabilitation and education options provided in the Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration.
"Yes, we can and we certainly will talk about the adults - the men and women who stand behind the Naselle Youth Camp and who represent a driving force in the Naselle community and the Grays River Valley," said Takko, who was born in nearby Ilwaco. "But let's talk first about the children - the young people who have been served and who are being served at Naselle. Let's ask what's best for these kids whose lives will be ravaged if the camp is closed as proposed in the governor's budget."
Since 2002, 84 youths at the school have earned high school diplomas and 546 students have taken the GED test, with 83 percent passing. Public service by the juvenile offenders, valued at $134,200 annually, includes:
? 1,000 acres of reforestation through planting trees;
? 600 acres of pre-commercial thinning;
? 80 acres of tree plantation maintenance; and
? Site preparation of 100 acres.
Students also maintain 30 miles of forest road and provide 5,000 hours of firefighting each year.
"I've been an advocate of the NYC from the start and I'm fully aware of the impact that the closure would have on the community," said Blake."The Naselle Youth Camp provides dependable jobs for our families and invests in our children's future, and I will do everything in my power to support the Naselle Youth Camp this session."