WASHOUGAL — City, county and environmental leaders joined Washougal Mayor Sean Guard and members of Washougal’s well-known Schmid family at a deed signing for Washougal’s newest – and biggest – park on Thu., Oct. 6.
The former site of the George Schmid and Sons Construction business, the nearly 18-acre parcel, at 1407 NE 32nd St., in Washougal, is a mix of usable, higher-elevation land and more than 10 acres of floodway land adjacent to the Washougal River.
The Schmid family has owned the land since the 1950s and has been working with city officials, environmental conservationists with the Columbia Land Trust and the county’s Legacy Lands program for more than three years to turn the 17.88-acre parcel into a public park.
“This is a tremendous gift to the community from the Schmid family,” said Glenn Lamb, executive director of the Columbia Land Trust, a nonprofit that works with landowners to preserve environmentally sensitive and critical land in the Columbia River region.
Members of the Schmid family, including George Schmid’s wife, Emma Schmid, and their daughter, Carolyn Simms, were present at the Oct. 6 deed signing to express their relief that their family’s land would be used by Washougal residents in perpetuity.
“I am humbled that it will be here for all of us to use in the future,” Simms told the crowd of politicians, environmentalists and citizens gathered for the deed-signing ceremony. She said she looks forward to seeing what the city will do with the park to provide public recreational opportunities for future generations.
Lamb added that the city of Washougal and Clark County had been willing partners in the creation of the Schmid Family Park, and thanked local officials for their willingness to partner with the land trust to turn a former construction site into an environmentally friendly piece of riverfront property.
“Columbia Land Trust is eager to play a role in more of these kinds of things,” Lamb said.
The nature of the Schmid family construction business meant several rounds of environmental testing to make sure the site was safe, said Washougal Mayor Guard. Although the city is waiting on two more tests, Guard said the first round of soil testing came back with a good bill of health.
Now, the city, in conjunction with the Columbia River Trust, will try to determine the best use of the public Schmid Family Park. Because it is considered floodway land, the lower parcel nearest to the Washougal River is not able to hold permanent structures, making it perfect for conservation and salmon restoration efforts. The upper piece of the property, however, may be ideal for things that Washougal residents have voiced a need for in their part of Clark County.
Washougal City Councilor Paul Greenlee said the city is mulling its options for the park’s five to eight usable acres, and that everything from a new dog park – needed since the city has been leasing land for its current dog park and that property’s owner has indicated the he will soon develop the property – to some type of community/rec center is on the table.
Residents in Washougal have been calling for some type of community or recreational center for a while now, Greenlee says, and the property could be perfect for that type of gathering spot, since it is close to both the high school and the city’s other major park, Hathaway Park. However, he cautioned, building a community center comes at a steep price and would probably require a rather large parking lot, so the city may want to look for another site and keep Schmid Family Park as more of an outdoor recreational space.
“Building a rec center is more complicated than people think,” Greenlee said. “But it’s certainly something that we’re trying to sort out.”