Where is the Hispanic voice in the Crescent Bar golf course debate?
As community debate continues over whether Grant PUD should keep or remove the 9-hole golf course on Crescent Bar Island, one large group of potential island users – Quincy Hispanics — appears to be mostly absent from the discussion.
The PUD has received 641 written public comments on the golf course issue, with 504 of them in favor of keeping the course.
Of all the people who commented, only about 10 of them have Hispanic last names, possibly a handful more.
Quincy is 10 miles from Crescent Bar and, arguably, is the city with the most to gain from improved recreational amenities there.
Its population of 7,342 is 74 percent Hispanic, according to U.S. census data updated for 2013. It’s one of many small communities in the Columbia Basin, a regional heartland for agriculture and ag processing. Overall, Grant County is about 40 percent Hispanic.
The PUD seeks to redevelop the Columbia River island to expand its public picnic areas, add a nature trail and wildlife area, improve beach areas, camping and boating.
The question, officials say, is whether the public would be better served with the golf course, which covers 106 of the island’s 194 acres, or with more room for other activities.
The PUD has proposed two possible island layouts: one with a golf course and one without.
A group of off-island business owners have proposed a third option that preserves the golf course and suggests improvements to parking, camping areas, trails and safety enhancements.
PUD staffers expect to make a recommendation to commissioners July 14. The utility accepted public comment on the options May 1 to May 31 and hosted an open house on May 20 in Quincy to share its options with the community.
About 60 people attended the meeting. Very few of them were Hispanic, one Quincy resident said recently.
So, where’s the Hispanic voice in the debate?
Manuel Guerrero, who has been a Quincy city councilman since 2001, said many Quincy Hispanics don’t get involved in public outreach, because they don’t have legal residency and don’t want to be deported.
“They come to work,” he said. “That’s what they like to do. They don’t want to get involved.”
Hispanics, he said, think of Crescent Bar as the place where vacationers from the Seattle area head for golf and boating. Not many Hispanics that he knows of play golf, he said.
They do like to spend time picnicking by the river, but they don’t go to Crescent Bar for that, he said.
Local Spanish speakers either don’t care what happens there, he said, or they may not be aware that they could have a voice in the redevelopment debate.
“It depends on how you get the information out to the community,” he said.
PUD spokesman Chuck Allen said Wednesday that the utility follows a “standard practice” for getting the word out about their projects and outreach efforts.
Utility officials advertised in Grant County newspapers, including the Quincy Valley Post-Register and the Wenatchee World, to alert the public about the May 1 to 21 public-comment period and also about the May 20 open house in Quincy, Allen said.
They also sent news releases to regional media outlets.
None of the advertising in any of the publications was in Spanish, he said. The PUD website contains a tool that translates much of its contents into Spanish, but it’s a machine-style translation that excludes indications on graphic images like maps and diagrams.
The utility did not announce the Quincy open house or comment period in Spanish on Spanish-language radio he said. The PUD didn’t have a language interpreter on hand at its open house in Quincy, nor, was there a request for one, Allen said.
“I don’t know why they aren’t responding,” Allen said. “We don’t single out interest groups. We don’t differentiate. We have a standard procedure we follow. We welcome input.”
He declined to comment on whether a lack of response from county Hispanics was of concern or if more outreach to the community was necessary.
“They don’t pay attention to us. Even though we comment, our mentality is ‘What for?’” said Jose Saldaña, a former two-term Quincy city councilman and owner of Quincy Realty. Saldaña said that he, neither attended the Quincy open house nor submitted a comment.
He said he encouraged others to comment, but agreed that the degree of apathy or disinterest in the community discussions doesn’t help the Hispanic community get what it needs.
Many Hispanics don’t have computers, so responding to an Internet-driven call for public comment isn’t easy for them, he said.
He also points to past years when he said he and his Hispanic friends didn’t feel welcomed at Crescent Bar by the island’s approximately 400 holders of condos and RV lots.
Today, they don’t think about Crescent Bar as an option, even for golf. And he’s a golfer. Saldaña says he prefers to golf at nearby Colockum idge.
Language, he said, is a bigger factor in community involvement for Hispanics than their legal status.
“All Grant PUD announcements are in English,” he said. “They don’t have to announce in Spanish, but it would be nice if they would do it. It’s a good business practice.”
— By Christine Pratt, Wenatchee World