Concerns already exist about conditions, limited parking and restrooms at the park and two nearby developments could bring 1,000 more families to the area
Mount Vista resident Tyler Castle and his family have a long history with Whipple Creek Regional Park. You might say the park holds a special place in his heart, as well as the hearts of many Clark County residents.
“It’s just being loved to death,’’ Castle said of the 300-acre park, located just off Northwest 179th St.
Castle, current president of the Whipple Creek Restoration Committee, said Whipple Creek Regional Park includes a portion of land that used to be his own family’s park. His family purchased the property from George Propstra, the founder of Burgerville. They later sold it for the purpose of the park.
“I grew up right alongside Whipple Creek,’’ Castle said. “I actually have a photo of the historic mill on the property of my mom pregnant with me.’’
Whipple Creek Park has more than 12 miles of trails used by equestrians and hikers. The Clark County Parks Department has been forced recently to put seasonal trail restrictions in place to preserve the park’s natural surface trails, which can be muddy due to poor drainage, clay soils and steep slopes.
According to Clark County Public Works, since 2010, the Whipple Creek Restoration Committee and community volunteers have donated more than 8,500 hours to build reroutes, improve drainage and spread gravel across the park’s main trails, making them accessible year-round. Volunteers also realigned and restored a series of natural surface trails.
“If it wasn’t for the work of our committee, you couldn’t go in there without boots on,’’ said Castle, who also pointed out the park’s extremely limited parking and its single portable restroom.
Now, in addition to those previous issues with the park, Castle and other park users are concerned about how future development in the area near the park will create even greater problems.
There are two planned residential developments within three miles of Whipple Creek Park. The North Haven development (807 NW 179th St.) has plans for 329 single-family lots over 38.11 acres and the Woodbrook development (4206 NE 179th St.) has plans for 655 single-family lots over 142 acres. According to Clark County Planner Amy Wooten, both projects are currently on hold due to project design issues that the applicant is working to resolve with county staff.
The potential of having almost 1,000 new families living nearby is an obvious concern to Castle, who believes it will mean many more users will find their way to the park that is already being “loved to death.’’
“As the president of the Whipple Creek Restoration Committee, many park users come to me with questions and concerns for the park,’’ Castle said. “It’s important that I work as hard as I can to help both answer those questions and address those concerns.’’
The crux of the matter
Castle said, in their applications with the county, developers of both of the proposed nearby residential communities list Whipple Creek Regional Park as a recreational asset.
“That is problematic because it is still listed as an ‘undeveloped’ park by the county,’’ Castle said. “The park has largely been built and maintained over the past decade by volunteers and donations, so that led to that designation of being ‘undeveloped.’’’
As far as the North Haven and Woodbrook developments, Wooten did report that “there are no standards in the development code relating to improvements at public park facilities. So, no, there won’t be any discussions or requirements for Whipple Creek Park. However, parks impact fees (PIF) will be assessed for each new dwelling.’’
Wooten also reported that “both subdivisions propose open spaces, both active and passive for use by new residents.’’
It has been suggested to Castle that those open spaces will provide future residents of the North Haven and Woodbrook communities ample recreational opportunities, which will minimize the impact on Whipple Creek Park.
“That’s just not true,’’ Castle predicted. “I don’t see how a thousand houses aren’t going to affect the park, even with their green spaces. They will have jogging trails, play structures and the like, but those do not meet, in any way, shape or form, the number of people who will be living there. The recreation areas available onsite are not sufficient. Because of that, those residents will seek other recreational opportunities and that will impact Whipple Creek Park.’’
Magan Reed, communications manager for Clark County Public Works, responded to questions from Clark County Today Wednesday regarding the issues impacting Whipple Creek Regional Park.
“Whipple Creek Regional Park is a tremendous resource to our community,’’ Reed wrote via email. “The nearly 300 acres is densely forested except for two field areas. We are thankful for the work of the Whipple Creek Restoration Committee that has dedicated countless hours and many years of service to maintain the trails and improve amenities at this site. Our volunteer program coordinates work groups with the non-profit in support of this important work.’’
Reed also addressed Castle’s question as to whether or not any PIF funds gathered at the New Haven and Woodbrook developments would be reinvested in improvements for Whipple Creek Park. Reed confirmed Castle’s fears that those funds would not be used at the park, but she also offered a potential remedy.
“The park is outside of a PIF district,’’ Reed confirmed. “PIF funds are used in the areas they are collected in to acquire and develop lands under the Parks and Recreation and Open Space plan (PROS), which the county is currently updating. We invite all community members to participate in the PROS Plan update by responding to an online survey.’’
Reed said the survey was just posted this week at https://www.clark.wa.gov/public-works/clark-county-parks.
Reed also pointed out that the county has acted recently in recognition of the need for more parks space and recreational opportunities for citizens near Whipple Creek Park.
“Furthermore, in anticipation of further growth, Clark County purchased five acres during 2016 at 510 Northwest 184th Street to be developed as a Neighborhood Park,’’ she said. “For now, the park space is open and accessible for public use. The park property will be included within the assessment for the PROS Plan update. The PROS update will also include an assessment of current park offerings, including Whipple Creek Regional Park. We have asked the Whipple Creek Restoration Committee to be included in stakeholder discussions for trails in Clark County.’’
How to get involved?
In addition to Reed’s invitation for members of the community to get involved in the PROS Plan update survey, Castle is encouraging members of the Whipple Creek Restoration Committee and others in the community to get involved if they share his concerns.
“Now is the time for people to get involved in the public meeting process and make their voices heard at the beginning of the process as opposed to just complaining after the fact,’’ he said.