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Disabled-accessible fishing pier added at Steamboat Rock State Park

State to dedicate pier Monday on Banks Lake

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Wild Horses: Highlands herds cause concern

Some want animals rounded up and removed

A half-dozen bands of feral horses are roaming the hills, trampling range land and potentially posing a health risk to other livestock. They’re not wild mustangs, but instead are former domestic animals or their offspring. And they’re causing conflict and consternation among local residents, and frustration for law enforcement officials. “People seem to think animals can adapt to their environment. They take a domestic horse out there, and they expect that” the horse can fend for itself, said Deputy Dave Yarnell, the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office’s designated animal officer. But newly released horses, accustomed to having human contact and bales of hay put out for them, don’t know what to do on their own. “They forage around. They don’t know where the shelter is, where the dangers are,” he said. He estimated there are 70-100 feral horses in the Aeneas Valley area of the Okanogan Highlands, and there have been reports of such animals in other parts of north Okanogan County. “We have had several reports over the years with wild horses, especially in that area,” Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said. “We have rounded up some over the years. There are a lot more up there.” Yarnell said feral horses can be a problem for ranchers. They eat forage on cattle grazing lands, thus making less for the cattle and stressing the land; get into springs developed for the cattle; trample native grasses; spread noxious weed seeds; damage wildlife habitat, and spread disease to other animals. One emaciated, feral horse showed up on someone’s property recently and collapsed. It was so sick it couldn’t move its head. “We thought at first it had strangles, which is highly contagious,” Yarnell said. Strangles is a bacterial upper respiratory disease also known as equine distemper. Further investigation showed the horse had an impacted molar, which led to further infection. The horse couldn’t eat and pretty much starved. It had to be put down. “That’s an example of what can happen. They can spread disease or they can suffer if injured,” he said. Another problem is with stallions, which lead the feral horse herds. They can impregnate pedigreed horses owned by breeders. Yarnell said one breeder had to abort several mares after a feral stallion visited the domestic herd. “We’ve had ranchers threaten to shoot them, but that might bring in predatory animals,” he said. “Besides, we don’t want dead horses everywhere.” On the other extreme, some people in the area feed the horses but don’t really own them. As long as the horses have the ability to move across the range, they’re considered feral. “It’s illegal for people to allow them to run at large, but there’s no crime to enforce unless the horse is branded,” Yarnell said. At that point, for branded animals, the state brand inspector can get involved. Rogers said responsibility for dealing with the feral horses lies with his office, but the costs involved can be prohibitive. The department has had a designated animal deputy, who also has other patrol duties, for less than a year and no additional budget for animal control. “We do what we can,” he said. “Deputy Yarnell has been working on this issue for several months and is trying to organize something to go and round up the horses. The biggest problem is money, but we are doing what we can.” Yarnell said a roundup looked promising for a while, when a non-profit rescue operation in Stevens County offered to come in, corral the horses and take them to be trained and adopted. “We started to put together a plan, then we found out they had some legal problems,” he said. He checked into having a professional roundup organization come in but was given a ballpark quote of $80,000 to $120,000. “It’s totally cost-prohibitive for the county to hire someone,” he said. In the meantime, Yarnell said the county encourages ranchers and interested parties to round up horses on an individual basis. “If they’re captured, people can keep them or take them to the sale yard,” he said. “The county can’t just house them.” He said the Sheriff’s Office can help facilitate roundups, and asks that he be kept in the loop if horses are rounded up. “We need to know they’re no longer at large,” he said. One ranch in the area did round up some of the horses, but eventually turned them back to the range when others in the area complained. Some people in the area don’t want the horses removed, but that’s not really a solution because of the range and health issues involved, Yarnell said. Nourishing Hand, a north end shelter with which the county contracts to care for abandoned and seized horses on a short-term, doesn’t have the facilities to deal with the feral horses, Yarnell said. There’s also been talk of creating a wild horse refuge, but that also poses problems since the horses then would be considered “owned,” he said. “How do you contain horses that don’t respect fences?” he said. “You need lots of land. Perimeter security would be needed.” The feral horses generally are well fed and in adequate health. “They’ve learned to adapt, but they’re mostly skittish,” he said. “Since it’s such a long-term situation, many are wild-born.” Compounding the problem is the continued dumping of horses. A couple showed up in Tunk Valley just recently. “People need to realize abandoning them is animal cruelty,” Yarnell said. “If they are caught in the act, there are serious consequences,” including felony prosecution. Okanogan County isn’t alone in having to deal with feral horses. The Colville Indian Reservation also is home to herds of such animals. The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs’ range office estimates there are around 1,000 feral horses on the reservation. The tribe recently received a $10,000 BIA grant for a count of the horses during the tribe’s annual helicopter count of game populations. BIA estimates every feral horse eats around 25 pounds of forage a day, or nearly 4.5 tons per year per horse.

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Egg hunters win prize baskets

Children turn out for Easter egg hunts

Royalty pageant reinstated

It’s been several years, but with more interested girls turning out this year the royalty pageant for the 66th annual Mansfield Play Days will make a comeback this weekend. “We’re starting it back up,” organizer and Mansfield Chamber of Commerce member Lois Heselwood said. “This year, we decided that we wanted to start bringing back the good old days.”

Vintage Faire is Saturday

Shoppers can get their ‘junk fix’

Vendors from all over the Northwest are expected for Saturday’s fourth annual Vintage Faire. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Okanogan County Fairgrounds, 175 Rodeo Trail Road. ‘ “It’s great to offer such a great venue for people’s junk fix,” said Kris Little, one of the event’s three organizers. The 50-plus vendors will offer antiques, salvaged items, jewelry, vintage goods, repurposed wares, farm junk and furniture. Booths will be in the beef barn, commercial building, the north end of the home economics building and outside. “Glampers” will offer items for glamorous, vintage-style camping. Food and beverage will be offered in the CattleWomen’s red barn and a “Blue Ribbon Bar” will be open in the grassy midway area. Beverages and an ice cream stand area also planned. Music will be provided by a brass band and a guitarist. A Vintage Faire Store will offer souvenirs, including hooded sweatshirts, beer cozies, antique replica toys, candy, canvas shopping bags and a photo booth at which people can dress up and take photos. “You could spend a whole day” at the faire shopping, eating and watching other shoppers, Little said. Last year’s faire drew around 2,300 people. “Every year we get more,” Little said. “It’s grown. It’s blown away our expectations.” “It brings in a lot more people to the fairgrounds and the community,” fairgrounds clerk Loretta Houston said. “It’s awesome. I can’t wait.” She said the faire is one of the bigger events at the fairgrounds, with several buildings and the outdoor area used. The RV area also sees increased use during the weekend. Little said some people bring wagons or wheeled wire shopping carts to haul away their purchases. Members of the Okanogan High School wrestling team will be on hand to carry larger items to vehicles in exchange for a donation to their team club. The Vintage Faire was started by five women “who love to junk” and wanted to share that love with others, Little said. Other founders are Tria Skirko, Brooke Somes, Teresa Sheeley and Kelly Buchert. Sheeley and Buchert have since bowed out of the faire. “We are just in awe that it worked,” Little said. “Now, people look forward to it.” Vendors are expected from Okanogan County and other Eastern Washington locales, and as far away as Idaho and Oregon. Shoppers come from all over the Northwest and into Canada. The organizers use a jury process to select vendors for a mix of vintage and handcrafted items. “We have pretty high standards,” Little said. Buying vintage items “can be an addiction” as shoppers hunt for specific items, great buys and things they didn’t know they needed, she said. It’s also a social event, as people greet friends they haven’t seen for awhile. “A lot will just sit and watch what other people bring out” in the way of purchases, Little said. “Some watch and giggle. Last year, one guy was out in the parking lot, tailgating, while waiting for his wife.”

Peru’s children take hold

Omak teacher seeks help providing basic school supplies

We never expected our trip to Peru to have such a hold on us so quickly. For those of you who have traveled to Third World countries, Peru was typical in its presentation: Dogs roam the streets, old people sit on corners selling whatever produce they have and rusted tin roofs cover adobe buildings that house families and businesses. The buses, called “combis” in Peru, are overcrowded, dirty and in need of repair, but still managed to keep some sort of schedule. It is all typical of abject poverty, and survival at its baseline. For 12 days, my boyfriend and I were able to explore a part of Peru that was noticeably lacking in tourists. The area is known as Cotahuasi Canyon. It is located 100 miles north-northeast of the city of Arequipa in southern Peru. It is not jungle, but high mountain desert of the Andes. The Cotahuasi River runs its length. It is considered the deepest canyon in the world, being twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. The terrain is very steep, with single-lane dirt roads. Farming is done on terraces that have ancient irrigation systems for watering. Amaranth, quinoa, potatoes and corn are grown in abundance. The scenery and the people, despite their lack of money or amenities, are welcoming. We had a guide to help us through this remote region. Marcio Ruiz is a veteran on Cotahuasi Canyon and took us to many places that, alone, I would not have been brave enough to attempt. One of these places was called Puyca (pronounced poo-ee-cah). Puyca lies at the top of a long road off the valley floor. The road up is not for the faint of heart. It literally zigzags its way up the face of the mountain, with travelers stopping to ensure they can make the switchback or tossing rocks off the road so others could pass. It’s a single lane – straight down on one side, straight up on the other. It takes about an hour and a half to scale the mountain in the combi. The village of Puyca lies on a little plateau on the top. I was so grateful to arrive safely and unload the 51 people from our little combi van. As we unloaded, we were greeted by groups of children running up and down the dirt road chasing after two bicycle tires. One tire had no rim and the other was from a broken bicycle that still had the handlebars attached to the front wheel, with the rest of the bike gone. They were, as children, having a blast rolling these down a small hill. There were no playgrounds or other toys being held or played with. We were guided to our hostel up a harrow valley, through a gate and into a courtyard. The children there were being washed off on the dirt floor in the center of the 8- foot by 10-foot “house,” using a basin – what we term as a “spit bath.” They were getting ready for school. Puyca has a school for the youngest children. It is a kindergarten that schools 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds. The older children must ride the combi up and down the mountain every day to go to school in the village of Alca. They knew I was a preschool teacher, so we were invited to view the school and interact with the children. The school houses 47 students, divided into three classrooms by age. The biggest class was the 5-year-olds. It was so hard to view this. I was dismayed that there was nothing in any of the classrooms. The 5-year-old room had two tables with a few chairs, a bulletin board with the words “bien viendo” written on it (they started school this month), and a few decorations hung from the ceiling. Some children were playing with a set of animal hats that were dirty and torn, other shared the 10 Duplo blocks. There were a few crayons, broken, in a bowl the teacher held. That was all. There were no pencils that I could see, no glue or paste, no toy center, no books and certainly no coloring area. One little boy summed up the absence of classroom tools as he clutched four markers that had no lids, and were obviously dried up. I asked, through our guide, if there were more markers. The teacher replied that there had been markers about six months ago, but they were gone. This little boy loved them so much that he refused to let them go. This brought both my boyfriend and me to tears. How could children hope for a better life when the very basics that we take for granted were missing? It was then that my boyfriend and I decided to make a difference for that boy and his classmates. Markers, crayons, maybe even a few coloring books, would be such a gift to these children, a gift we can provide. It’s not easy to get packages anywhere in this region of Peru. The postal system does not work as ours does. With the help of our guide, though, we have managed to find a way. We can send a package to the main town of Cotahuasi. The postmaster there lives in Alca and will take the package with him. From there, he will ensure it gets on the combi to Puyca, where it will be picked up by the equivalent of the mayor, who will hand deliver it to the school. I write this as an invitation for our community to become involved and make a difference to one child, if not many. New markers with the basic eight colors, boxes of large crayons with the basic eight colors, coloring books that have single pictures of animals, trucks or scenery – not Disney or movie-based books, as these kids have no idea what they are – plain paper, glue sticks and colored or plain pencils would be used to help these children learn to read and write, besides making them excited to go to school. Your donation of these items can be brought to Children’s House Montessori, 521 Jasmine St. Our school will be enclosing a letter to the children of Puyca, inviting them to become pen pals with us. Our trip to Cotahuasi, Peru, and in particular, Puyca, has our hearts forever. It touched that place that holds all children as precious and swells compassion to try to help. The need is great, but so is our ability. Marla Garr is a teacher at Children’s House Montessori in Omak. She and her boyfriend, Rick Dineen of Colville, traveled to Peru March 12-25 to hike and explore. They hired a guide, who learned she is a teacher and arranged the visit to Puyca’s school.

State investigating 911 outage

Ferry, Okanogan emergency call systems affected

The state has launched an investigation into a CenturyLink telephone problem that put 911 emergency service on hold Thursday morning.

MedStar sets up shop in Brewster

Critical care company plans May opening

Northwest MedStar plans to open a new, full-time base at the city-owned Anderson Field Airport next month.

Churches celebrate Easter with services

‘Sonrise Service’ brings together Omak, Okanogan congregations

OKANOGAN – Several area churches are joining Sunday morning for an interdenominational “Sonrise Service” at the Omak Memorial Cemetery, 2547 Elmway. The Christians in Action service runs from 6:30-7 a.m. and the Rev. Marc Doney of River of Life Foursquare Church is leading the service. He is a former U.S. Marine, deputy sheriff and associate pastor.

Community egg hunts offer candy and prizes

Discover Pass not needed for two hunts in state parks

An egg hunt and picnic will get rolling at noon Saturday at Pearrygin Lake State Park, 561 Bear Creek Road. A Discover Pass is not needed, since Saturday is a Washington State Parks free admission day. The free hunt, organized by the Twisp Valley Grange, will feature the egg hunt for children, followed by a free barbecue provided by Ulrich Drug. The Winthrop Kiwanis Club will offer photos with the Easter bunny. Hunters are asked to bring a basket for eggs and a blanket for the picnic. Other egg hunts in the area include: Bridgeport — The Quad City Eagles is planning its annual Easter egg hunt for 10 a.m. Saturday in Marina Park, 801 Jefferson Ave. Prizes for the hunt will be given to winners in three age groups: 1-3, 4-6 and 7-8, organizer Dianne Sleeper said. Area children are invited to help dye the eggs at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Eagles, 1030 Columbia Ave. Refreshments will be served. Parents and other community members are invited to the Eagles at 6 p.m. Tuesday to make the prize baskets and children’s’ snacks – popcorn ball Easter bunnies. Residents at Harmony House Health Care Center in Brewster will also dye some eggs for the event, Sleeper said. There could be at least 30-45 dozen eggs, including plastic ones filled with candy. Conconully — the Ladybugs fire auxiliary and Conconully Volunteer Fire Department will offer a hunt at 1 p.m. Saturday in Conconully State Park for youngsters through pre-teen age. The free hunt will be in the day area west of the main entrance, and will include plastic eggs filled with candy, coins, trinkets and tickets entitling finders to special holiday toys. One certificate for an Easter basket will be in each age area. A Discover Pass is not needed. All youngsters will receive holiday chocolate candy and fire safety information. Grand Coulee – An Easter parade will be at 10 a.m. in downtown Grand Coulee. Prizes will be given for best Easter outfit, bonnet and costume. Pets should be on leashes. The Grand Coulee Dam Lions Club will host an Easter egg hunt at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Grand Coulee Dam Middle School athletic field, 412 Federal Ave. Mansfield — The Mansfield Lions Club will host an Easter egg hunt at 10 a.m. Saturday at Bluestem Park, following a pancake feed from 8-9:30 a.m. in front of the fire station, 138 Main St. Children will be able to have photos taken with the Easter bunny. Nespelem – A children’s egg hunt will be at 10 a.m. Sunday at the Colville Tribal Convalescent Center, 1 Convalescent Center Blvd. Special eggs will bring their finders Easter baskets. Omak — 10 a.m. Saturday in Civic League Park next to the Omak Public Library, 30 S. Ash St. Children up to third-grade can search for eggs. Four age categories will be offered. More than 2,000 candy- and prize-filled eggs will be offered. “Don’t be late,” the organizing Omak-Okanogan Civic League and Omak Masons said. “The event starts promptly at 10 a.m. with the ringing of the church bells” next door to the park. Oroville – An egg hunt is planned at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Veranda Beach, 299 Eastlake Road. The Easter Bunny will be there. Pateros — An Easter egg hunt will be at 10 a.m. Saturday outside Rivers Restaurant and the neighboring Lakeshore Inn on Lakeshore Drive. “Parents, don’t let your kids be late. It’s a fast, fast three minutes,” restaurant Manager Theresa Blackburn said. About 1,500 plastic eggs will be dispersed in three different areas for three different age groups: 0-6, 7-9 and 10-12, Blackburn said. The eggs will be filled with candy as well as small gift certificates and possibly other goodies. Prize baskets will be awarded to the winner from each age group. Republic – An egg hunt will be at 1 p.m. Sunday at Eagle Track Raceway on Airport Road south of town. Riverside – The Lighthouse Assembly of God Church is organizing an egg hunt at 11 a.m. Saturday in the city park next to the Riverside Grocery, 102 N. Main St. Prizes and free hot dogs will be offered. The hunt is for children up to age 12.

Anti-texting ‘crash’ planned

First responders will join with the Tonasket School District and North Valley Hospital in an anti-texting exercise later this month. The April 29 “Don’t Text and Drive” exercise involves a simulated head-on crash between a school bus and a car, Glenda Beauregard of Okanogan County Emergency Management said. Agencies involved include the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office, Washington State Patrol, Tonasket Police Department, Tonasket Fire District/Fire District No. 4, Aeneas Valley Fire District No. 16, Tonasket and Oroville emergency medical services, state Department of Emergency Management and the county 911 dispatch center. Beauregard said the scene will be in the Colony Self Storage parking lot. Students will simulate being the victims and will be taken to North Valley Hospital by ambulance. At the same time, the school district will be notified and will conduct family notification and reunification.

United Powwow set for May 3

American Indian drummers and dancers will gather May 3 for the 26th annual United Powwow at the Omak Tribal Longhouse on Mission Road east of town. The free event is open to the public. The theme is “Families Closing the GAP: Graduate, Attendance and Participate,” with support coming from the Colville Confederated Tribes K-12 Youth and Attendance Program. Students and families will be honored for attending school. A plaque dedication is planned in memory of Christine Quintasket, whose pen name was Mourning Dove. Quintasket, a Colville tribal member, was the first American Indian woman to publish a novel. A symposium celebrating her accomplishments was last fall in Omak-Okanogan. The powwow’s first grand entry will begin at 1 p.m., with dinner following at 5 p.m., and an evening grand entry at 7 p.m. Soy Redthunder will be the emcee and Dan Nanamkin will be the arena director. A United Powwow queen and princess will also be selected for the 2014-15 year. All drummers and dancers are welcome, and host drums will be chosen at each session. The drug- and alcohol-free event is supported by the Wenatchee Valley College at Omak Red Road Association and the Omak School District Salish language class.

‘Willy Wonka Jr.’ is in May

The Merc Playhouse Children’s Musical Theater will present “Willy Wonka Jr.” on May 9-18 at the theater, 101 S. Glover St. The show is based on the book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” by Roald Dahl. Curtain times are 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays. Admission will be charged. A “pay what you can” performance will be at 7 p.m. May 15. The cast features 33 Methow Valley children, costumes, lights and sound by Liberty Bell High students, and set pieces by the Liberty Bell High School construction, welding and art classes.

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Omak dancers perform at Disneyland

Lorrie Fraley-Wilson Dance Studios takes dancers to California to perform on Disneyland stage

In search of ‘Dead Horse Cliff’

Researchers trying to locate actual horse-kill site

X marks the spot. Armed with a small topographical map and global-positioning devices, three history buffs and a journalist headed into the hills above Riverside on Thursday in search of the kill site from which Dead Horse Canyon gets its name.