Turn a negative into a positive

There are no bad guys in the saga of the donated Greenway golf carts, just some poor communication. But the recipients should now take action to ensure that the donation leads to positive results.

A Phoenix man, Bill Finnegan, said he was "enraged" over the rape of a 15-year-old girl near the Bear Creek Greenway in Medford in 2005. Wanting to make a difference, he paid $20,000 and donated four golf carts to the Greenway Foundation, which in turn gave them to the cities of Central Point, Medford, Phoenix and Ashland.

Finnegan, who lives in a fifth-wheel trailer in Phoenix, was justifiably unhappy when, two years later, he realized the carts were rarely being used. Inquiries to the local governments revealed that they knew little about the carts or their intended purpose.

Medford's cart is occasionally used by volunteers to patrol the bike path and walkway that parallels the creek. In other cities, the carts are used by maintenance workers, ridden in parades or left in storage.

This is not an indictment of heartless or lazy bureaucrats who have stiffed the well-meaning intentions of a good Samaritan. Some cities are overwhelmed by problems already and others simply don't have the manpower, paid or otherwise, to patrol the Greenway. It's one thing to be given the gift of the carts and entirely another to find someone to do the patrols on a regular basis.

While the cities can be forgiven for not immediately using something they didn't ask for, they now need to figure out how to best use the gift. If a city cannot use its donated cart, it should return it to the Greenway Foundation. In the end, it may be better to sell the carts and use the money for another Greenway-related purpose, perhaps something like improved lighting along part of the path.

Another option would be for the foundation to coordinate a volunteer effort with the cities, but that's certainly easier said than done.

The much-publicized rape raised a ruckus and probably over-heightened fears about the Greenway path, which police say is as safe as most places in the area. Like many spur-of-the-moment campaigns, the effort to "clean up" the Greenway eventually dropped off most people's radar.

Unfortunately, in this case, the good deed of an involved citizen also was neglected. It's not too late to make something positive out of the donation, and the cities and Greenway Foundation should work together to accomplish that.

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