Baker City's kids deserve clean and safe places to play.
Boys Jungle could be one of those places.
But it's not one now.
For one thing, the longtime youth hangout on the east bank of the Powder River just north of D Street is private property.
For another, the site attracts adults as well as kids. And based on the
liquor bottles and cigarette butts that sometimes litter the property,
it's clear that the older people aren't acting as responsible mentors
to the young ones.
Certainly city officials were justified in telling the Boys Jungle's
owner, Ben Dean, to try to get some semblance of control over his
Leveling the illegally built bike jumps and putting up no trespassing signs, for instance, are reasonable actions.
It's not that we object to bike jumps, mind you.
Nor are we so naive as to believe that daring kids won't always figure out ways to defy gravity.
But we'd much rather they do so in a place that's clearly designed for that purpose.
What was frightening about the Boys Jungle, prior to the city getting
involved, is that the jumps and pits were pretty well camouflaged by
grass and brush.
A young bicyclist could easily have turned onto one of the Jungle's
many dirt paths and accidentally launched off an unseen jump.
The Boys Jungle is an attractive parcel, with abundant shade from big
cottonwoods and willows, and of course the river. In fact the promoters
of the Leo Adler Memorial Parkway wanted to build the path beside the
river through the property.
But the deal never happened, and the Parkway runs along the east side of the Jungle.
Ideally, the city would get a grant to buy the property from Dean and
turn it into a park. That would be a fine first project for the city's
newly created Parks and Recreation Board, to figure out how best to use
the prime piece of ground.
The current situation, where every visitor is a trespasser and there's a complete absence of oversight, is far from ideal.