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On thin ice


Ashland skate proposal could hurt needed projects and the existing rink

Normally, we support efforts to expand community facilities or recreation opportunities. But we're having trouble mustering much enthusiasm for a proposal to build an indoor ice skating rink in Ashland.

City residents and visitors to Lithia Park have enjoyed an outdoor skating area in the winter, thanks to a donation from Darex, an Ashland business. It's been a good fit for the city, providing some additional winter activities in a park that now bustles nearly year-round.

But the Darex rink, which drew more than 12,000 skaters in November through February, is nearly 10 years old and showing its age, with parts failing and crews finding it more and more difficult to assemble each winter. So talks have begun among skating enthusiasts about what will take its place.

We think the best solution is to replace it with something similar to what's there now. The idea of the ice rink was to provide a pleasant attraction in a town that depends on pleasant attractions for survival.

A full rink, enclosed and with seating for hockey games, is another matter. We have two principal concerns: First, it would depend on fund-raising at a time when money for public projects (such as schools and libraries, to name two) is in short supply. Second, a full rink already exists about 15 minutes away, on the south edge of Medford.

Skating rinks can be a tough proposition, as evidenced in many areas where they have not survived. The RRRink in Medford has hung on and is drawing more interest as youth and adult hockey grows in popularity. But can the area support two full-blown ice skating operations? It seems a stretch.

— We do hope the ice skating rink continues in Ashland in one form or another. But it shouldn't come at the expense of other pressing needs or at the expense of an existing operation.

Work-release works The ever-increasing desire of the public to curb crime rates has resulted in tougher laws and sentences for offenders. On the surface that sounds good: Offenders will learn the lesson that societies will not tolerate crime and we'll all be safer.

Unfortunately, the idea that courts can correct unacceptable behavior with incarceration and fines has some pitfalls. Inmates come out of jail with no work skills and a major strike against them when it comes to finding employment. They often cycle back into the criminal justice system, adding to the taxpayers' expense and society's suffering.

Jackson County's work-release transition program provides an alternative.

The work-release program, housed in the former Talent Correctional Facility, offers job and life skills while inmates serve out their sentences. Offenders are given entry-level jobs that require punctuality and grooming. Participants must attend addiction counseling and other rehabilitation programs. Paychecks are surrendered to Jackson Community Justice ' which operates the program ' and are placed in trust with a fee of &

36;25 a day surrendered for meals, laundry, bus tokens and basic medical care. The remainder is given to the inmate at the end of his sentence.

The program helps teach the basics of life to those who have missed them for whatever reason. Learning how to get and keep a job, take care of yourself and pay your own way has the ring of success. Instead of going through that revolving door, offenders have a better chance of moving forward and breaking the cycle.