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Yakima Greenway efforts detailed for Rotarians

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Yakima Greenway Association Executive Director Al Brown Wednesday shares with Sunnyside Daybreak Rotary Club members what his association does to improve the quality of life for Yakima Valley residents.

The Yakima Greenway Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing community members with the Greenway Pathway and three parks in Yakima.

Al Brown, executive director of the association, Wednesday detailed for Sunnyside Daybreak Rotary Club members the history and efforts of his organization.

"It's the best job move I ever made," Brown told the Rotarians, noting he had a history working in government prior to his current position.

Thirty-five years ago the location of the current Sarge Hubbard Park was a city landfill. Brown said the state took notice of the environmental impact the landfill had, which was not good.

The dump was destroying the Yakima River and habitat for wildlife in the Yakima Valley.

The dump was shut down by the state of Washington and 30 years ago the Yakima Greenway Association was formed in an effort to improve the environment along the river.

The first step made by the association was establishing Sarge Hubbard Park. "That's ground zero," shared Brown.

He said the efforts of his association grew and a pathway, as well as two other parks were born along the river.

The pathway itself consists of more than 11 miles. The trails are now used by community members and visitors to Yakima.

"The association is unique because we maintain the Greenway without government funding," shared Brown.

He said all funding for the Yakima Greenway and the parks associated with the pathway comes from donations. Maintenance is primarily the responsibility of volunteer efforts.

"We understand the value of volunteers because we double our money through their efforts," Brown stated.

He moved on to the association's current drive to expand the pathway to Naches.

"You would think in poor economic times we would take care of the minimum, but the opposite is true," Brown shared, stating the expansion will nearly double the miles the trails cover.

Last year the association was able to expand the pathway by one mile through the support and donations raised through individual contributions, as well as fundraising efforts.

The Yakima Greenway Association isn't just about the pathway and parks, however.

Brown said a member of the board, a physician, two years ago approached him with concerns about childhood obesity and the reduction of recreational programs.

That discussion led to a gathering of others concerned about the issues, and "Kiddin' Around" was formed. That program allows youngsters and their families to participate in recreational events, promoting physical wellness.

The youngsters collect points toward prizes for participating in events like a martial arts night. That particular night provided youngsters the chance to learn tips on martial arts. The youngsters were involved in a physical fitness activity. The evening culminated with a showing of "Kung-Fu Panda," a movie for the entire family.

"Two-thirds of our funding comes from our endowment. We hold fundraising events like Gap-to-Gap, a five-leg event," shared Brown.

The Yakima Greenway Association also raises funds through the "Case of the Blues and All That Jazz" wine tasting and music festival.

Members of the association also contribute financially through memberships of $100 per family or $1,500 per business.

Overall, the nationally recognized association is geared toward providing a better quality of life for Yakima Valley residents through its many efforts.

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