Opelika-Auburn News on the search for a missing woman which has gained national attention:

Once again we find ourselves grappling with potential tragedy; this one involving a violent crime, and this time with a young lady who remains missing.

And, once again, a united effort exists to create a loving, caring, support system and what we hope are positive answers to negative questions.

Aniah Blanchard, 19, remains missing, but a warrant for first-degree kidnapping was issued Thursday for 30-year-old Ibraheem Yazeed in her disappearance.

Her car was found recently in Montgomery, apparently with enough evidence in it to indicate to investigators that at least some level of foul play has occurred with Aniah. Nevertheless, family and friends continue to hold out hope that she will be found alive.

Aniah is a student at Southern Union State Community College in Opelika, a recent resident of Auburn, and a native of Homewood in the Birmingham area.

Today, however, the entire state of Alabama seems ready to claim her, find her, and ensure that she comes home to her family desperate to have her found.

That interest now is spreading on a national level, even more so with the addition this week of the high-profile Texas EquuSearch mounted search-and-recovery team joining the hunt for Aniah.

Regardless of the final outcome, Aniah’s disappearance already should serve as a stark reminder of the need for constant guard and attention to everyday safety rules, such as the need for awareness or escort when walking into a dark parking lot at night, keeping car doors locked, the old “stranger danger” guard, and other methods of self-defense and precautions.

Local prayer vigils and services being conducted to share prayer and support for Aniah and her family is a good indicator of how we care for one another.

Let’s hope it is enough to help in bringing Aniah safely home, in helping her family and searchers find at least some level of comfort, and that others learn important insight that might in the future spare them from similar fate.

Meanwhile, as the meaningful saying goes: If you know something, say something.

Contact your local law enforcement agency to help if you have information about the whereabouts of Aniah Blanchard.

And for the rest of us: Keep praying for the best possible outcome.

The Gadsden Times on a partnership to develop federal land that has been approved by the Alabama Community College System Board of Trustees:

Roughly a month ago, we called a partnership between the City of Gadsden and Gadsden State Community College to develop land behind the college’s Wallace Drive campus for community recreational use “an idea worth considering.”

Some details still need to be finalized, but we feel confident in saying that partnership has moved from potentiality to reality, given that the Alabama Community College System Board of Trustees has signed off on it, and college and city officials presented it to the public last week at a major press event.

We also are prepared to drop our previous hesitation and support not just the discussion, but the execution of this proposal.

Rewinding the details: The city will spend between $8 million and $10 million to develop the property — known in the past as GSCC’s “Back 40,” adjacent to the Coosa River — for youth soccer fields and other recreational use. (There’s been talk of bicycle and walking trails, and possibly extending the current boardwalk on the river to the area.) The money is budgeted and work should move quickly once grace is said over the final plan.

The city won’t be stepping onto unfamiliar ground; it’s leased portions of the property for youth sports fields for close to 30 years. As City Council President Cynthia Toles observed, “We’re investing in what we’ve already got.”

The idea of the area being a community recreation hub isn’t new, either; we previously cited the crowds that were back there in the days when adult slow-pitch softball was so popular and GSCC had a four-field complex.

This benefits GSCC by getting potential “customers” on campus to see what the college has to offer (which as we’ve noted is substantial).

This benefits the city by giving youth sports teams adequate places to play (that’s also not a new quest; kids were looking for sandlots generations ago) and furthering its quest to develop the riverfront, something that again has been long overdue.

We acknowledge those who disagree with that focus, who cite the various and legitimate needs in their specific sections of Gadsden, and who regard riverfront development as folly and the city just trying to copy places like Chattanooga, Tennessee. We’ll offer the cliché “a rising tide lifts all boats,” note for the “fix the potholes” brigade that the City Council this week approved more than $1 million in additional funding for street paving and point out that anyone who’s seen the activity and vibrancy along the Tennessee River in Chattanooga knows it’s not a bad model for other cities with riverfronts (not that Gadsden is playing copycat).

We also acknowledge those who ask, “What about the sports complex that’s being built in Rainbow City?” What’s envisioned at GSCC is a place for local kids to play recreational sports. The Etowah County Mega Sports Complex, although its backers are making noises otherwise with the announcement of the city-county partnership, always was aimed at cashing in on the travel ball craze that involves more serious athletes with parents who do more serious spending. It’s not just apples and oranges, it’s apples and persimmons.

Something to consider: The land at the college is designated as a federal park and is restricted to public use; it can’t be used for any commercial or educational reason.

We’ll certainly listen to anyone who has a better idea for what to do with it, given those constraints, than giving kids more places to play ball (that’s another of those quality of life considerations we keep hammering, and which industrial developers take very seriously), putting GSCC in the spotlight and helping make Gadsden’s riverfront the showpiece it should’ve been decades ago.

We’re not expecting an inundation of responses — and doing nothing and letting the grass grow isn’t an acceptable alternative.

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