Virgil Edwards, we salute you.
The local resident and member of the Disability Action Center penned a powerful piece published Saturday as the newspaper's My Turn column. At issue was Tubbs Hill - specifically, the attitude some residents take toward one of the region's prized public places and the way some people bend facts to suit their arguments.
In a broader sense, though, Mr. Edwards was speaking for all of the thousands of Kootenai County residents with disabilities. While he calmly dissected numerous factual errors that have been stated and restated by those who wish no changes to Tubbs Hill, one paragraph leaped out of his column.
"Please, stop insulting us and stop implying that we are not as worthy as you to have access to our public spaces," he wrote. "Some of us were born with our disabilities; others got them by accidents, diseases, and in some cases war. We are not any less of a person and we do not deserve to be treated as though we should not have the same opportunities that you do."
Mr. Edwards' column is available to read on the newspaper's website, cdapress.com. If you missed it in print yesterday, we strongly encourage you to go to cdapress.com and read it. The column debunks the notion that Tubbs Hill is virtually untouched by the hands of man and offers a moral imperative that if it belongs to the public, it should belong to everyone in the public - not just to those who are resisting changes to it.
Mr. Edwards suggests that the authors of a letter to the editor on "Tubbs Hill encroachment" purposely spread falsehoods. While we cannot guess what was in the letter writers' heads, we do want to clarify one possibility. Mr. Edwards says the letter writers published falsehoods after having met with the design team, a meeting which allegedly cleared up any misunderstandings. The Press received the letter to the editor on March 3, so if that meeting took place after the letter was written, we take some responsibility for perpetuating inaccurate information. On the other hand, the letter writers did not notify the paper of changes to their original letter, so perhaps it was intended to be published in its original form.
Regardless, Mr. Edwards' stance on behalf of residents with disabilities should be recognized and respected not just in the McEuen Park discussion, but in everyday life. Perhaps no group of citizens is under greater duress these days than those with disabilities who are facing tremendous cuts to the state and federal funding that provides essential training and services. If anything, a chance to enjoy Mother Nature just like anyone else is more important now than ever.