How frustrating. How strange. How typical.
We’re referring to the dispiriting saga of the Cinch Hook snowplay area and what it reveals about both the average yahoo and the average bureaucrat.
The not-quite abandoned mineral pit just off Highway 87 near the Camp Verde turnoff offers the best snowy spot to ride sleds and inner tubes anywhere near Payson.
So in years past, it has drawn big, happy crowds — who fling snowballs, build snowmen and go screaming down the short, tree-less slopes. Alas, the open space at the entrance to the pit has enough parking for only 40 to 80 cars — so people used to spill out to park along the highway, causing a safety hazard.
Last year, the Coconino National Forest tried to bring some order to the chaos. They put out porta potties and a trash bin.
Enter the yahoos. Let us imagine that they’re all Phoenix riffraff — because it’s hard to believe anyone stupid enough to use a porta potty for target practice wouldn’t be smart enough to live in Payson. Some other idiots were sledding right down the hill and out onto the public highway. Then after the season, volunteers picked up 200 bags of garbage the yahoos didn’t bother to drop in the trash bin.
So this year, the Forest Service just shut the site down. Forest managers considered trying to find a private concessionaire to ride herd on the mittened idiots, but concluded no one could make a go of such a business without at least 200 parking spaces.
So once again the thoughtless few have ruined things for the deserving many.
Now, we hope that the Forest Service will keep an open mind and that someone will come forward with a solution. Hard to believe someone couldn’t make money by collecting a modest gate fee, managing the parking lot and keeping an eye on those potties.
All we know is that it makes no sense to close down public access to the public’s forest just because so many people so badly want to use it.
So let us all resolve — not to let the knuckleheads win (again).
College education is important
We’re making a mistake of historic dimensions.
And it’s such a tragedy — because we know better.
Specifically, the rise of tuition at public universities and community colleges has reversed the single most far-sighted, high-return investment in the nation’s history.
So, the announcement that Arizona State University will triple scholarships for freshmen by raising the eligibility ceiling on family income from $25,000 to $60,000 represented a welcome baby step in the right direction.
But then, it hardly compensates for the breathtaking rise in tuition there in the past decade — nor the dismaying rise in tuition at Gila Community College to more than $900 for a full-time student not eligible for a senior discount. Attending Gila Community College is still a bargain. Universities though need to examine their costs and look for ways to lower a student’s learning costs.
The unprecedented economic growth of this nation since the end of World War II owes much to the single most brilliant social welfare program in the nation’s history — the GI bill.
Before World War II, only 10 percent of Americans had attended college. But the federal government’s decision to provide a nearly free college education for millions of war veterans transformed society.
Today, some 29 percent of Americans have a college education.
A decade ago, students could attend community college or a state university for a relative pittance. That has changed dramatically, pricing many students out of an education or forcing them to start their careers with a crushing debt burden.
The trend seems likely to get worse in Arizona as a result of the budget meltdown, which has not only driven up tuition, but prompted the Legislature to raid even donations to the universities. That seems like a tragic mistake.
The discussion of a low-cost, four-year college in Payson offers a frail, hopeful sign in the midst of the tuition disaster that has overwhelmed the three state universities. If the Legislature doesn’t smother that promising idea in its cradle, it could lead to a lower-cost state college system closely connected to the universities that could keep the hope of a college education alive for many. Backers of the idea hope that the undergraduate-focused campus will end up with tuition rates perhaps 25 to 50 percent less than ASU’s main campus.
In the meantime, we can only hope that the new ASU scholarship program will open the door to opportunity for an extra 1,100 students each year.
And that voters will eventually force a halt to the tragic retreat from one of the best ideas this nation has ever had.