LA CENTER — Community members are helping leaders in La Center plan that city’s newest park along the shores of the East Fork Lewis River.
Once completed, the new park city officials are temporarily calling the Water Trail Park, will be another stopping point for kayakers and paddleboarders traveling the 32-mile-long waterway between Woodland and Vancouver Lake.
“We see this as a destination site,” La Center Mayor Greg Thornton says of the planned 1-acre park, which will be located at the end of Pollock Road in La Center, along the shores of the East Fork Lewis River. “Really, it’s helping to make the entire city of La Center a destination.”
City leaders hope that the new park — the first park La Center has created in more than 13 years, says Jeff Sarvis, the city’s public works director — will capitalize on La Center’s proximity to the Lewis River and bring visitors traveling the area’s water trail off of the river and into the city’s downtown core.
“The kayakers who come here may want to rest and to maybe come into town and get some libations,” says former La Center Mayor Jim Irish, who helped city leaders plan the new “water trail” park. “The city stands to benefit from this.”
At a meeting held Wed., Oct. 19 inside the La Center Public Works Department, community members met with city planners and consultants from the civil and structural engineering firm BergerABAM to discuss ideas for the new park.
Constrained by the site, which has a river and sensitive habitat on one side and a steep grade up to La Center Road and the main bridge leading into La Center’s downtown on the other side, the new park is limited in what it can offer. Right now, plans call for a kayak launch, a parking lot made from a permeable material like gravel that can handle the site’s flood risks, a picnic table and grassy area and some type of bathroom facilities.
On Wednesday evening, community members, including the city’s current and former mayors and many others who have been involved in the park’s planning process, discussed the pros and cons of having portable bathrooms versus permanent facilities — the former would be less expensive and easier to install, but some want to see bathrooms that will entice out-of-town visitors to stop and rest at the site, and maybe be able to change their clothes for a trip into La Center to eat dinner or do some shopping.
The crowd also debated the number of parking spots, with some saying the planned 20-spot parking lot was too small. The architects explained that adding more parking spots would require a more intensive review from the state’s Department of Ecology, which won’t want to see much development along the river’s shoreline, which is in a floodway and is part of a sensitive salmon habitat zone.
Other issues included managing traffic down Pollock Road, a narrow drive that leads La Center visitors off La Center Road, which connects the city to Interstate 5, and down to the shores of the East Fork Lewis River; possible areas for overnight tent camping spots for kayakers traveling a long distance; related maintenance costs; and putting the park on the water trail map to let kayakers, paddleboarders and other river users know that it’s there.
The city’s permit specialist, Naomi Hansen, said La Center is already a popular spot for river enthusiasts living in and near La Center.
“Every day in the summer, I see paddleboarders and kayakers going down (to the river), walking past this building,” Hansen said, referring to the city’s Planning Department, which sits near the river, opposite from where the new park will be located. “The park will be an asset to the city and to the greater community.”
The city will use money from a Department of Commerce grant to build the new park. The grant will provide about $240,000, Sarvis said, but the city may need to build the park in phases. All invoices related to the grant must be submitted by June 30, 2017, so Sarvis said he expects to see work on the park begin in about five months.
If you have questions about the new water trail park — or want to help name the new park — email Jeff Sarvis at email@example.com and reference “Water Trail Park” in your subject line.