The Port of Camas-Washougal recognizes park volunteers every year
In 1999, at Parker’s Landing Historical Park a granite plaque was placed in the grass and a dogwood tree was planted next to it to honor the decades of service to the park given by Community Garden Club members. At the time, Rosalee MacRae, also a Garden Club member, was serving as secretary of the Parkersville National Historic Site Advisory Committee (PAC) to the Port and the Parkersville Heritage Foundation. Rosalee, born in 1930, began advocating for the park in the 1970s. She knew the last residents at the park, Cecil and Mary Van Vleet and had been inside their guest house and 100 year old home.
Fast forward to 2022 when Susan Tripp was walking the park grounds with Port Facilities Director Eric Plantenberg in preparation for the first annual Parkersville Day and first park summer watering by volunteers. Susan, a member of the PAC had asked others on the committee what the shed was used for, and no one knew. On this day, she asked Eric and he replied, “It’s your shed.” Susan didn’t know what he meant so he took out a key and opened it, saying it belonged to the park volunteers. The shed looked like it had not been used since 1999. The inside looked like a haunted house with wall to wall spider webs and nests. Containers of fertilizer and pesticide were past their expiration dates. And yet, hanging neatly on hooks were rows of hand trowels and rakes, and an enormous spool of twine obviously needed at the rose arbor.
Eric put into motion the clearing of toxic materials and the purchase of hoses and nozzles for the summer watering volunteers. Because the park is a national, state historic and archeological site. no underground sprinklers were installed in Section B of the park. Section A is the parking lot and Section C, the Camas and Washougal veterans memorial walk, has landfill and sprinklers. Raised beds in Section B also have sprinklers but the vast grass area with the arbor, heritage apple grove and other trees depend on hand watering.
At the first meeting of the summer 2022 watering volunteers, the shed was reopened. Volunteer Elena Marchand dove in with the soon-to-retire Port employee and park steward, Doris Tillman. Elena took outdated and broken items home for disposal or donation. She also began to tear out the grass that was growing over the Garden Club plaque. Doris assisted her as others watched.
For the past two summers, Elena has deep watered the rose arbor weekly throughout the warm days of spring, summer, and fall. She also prunes, dead heads, and twines them as needed. In addition to her faithful weekly park gardening service, she volunteered to assist with the family games for the annual Parkersville Day.
Elena retired after 30 years as a Psychiatric Nurse at the Acute Care Crisis Stabilization Vancouver Camas, a Peace Health facility. At 71 years of age, she race walks six miles daily, a practice she has done for over 25 years. After which Elena goes to Vancouver’s Recovery Café where she cooks meals as a full time volunteer.
Elena, originally from Port Townsend, Washington, has lived in Vancouver for over 25 years. Before that she lived on and managed a farm in Brush Prairie for 10 years. At the farm, she raised llamas, had goats, chickens, Rheas, Emus and more. Elena had a big garden then and continues her love for gardening now. Elena told Susan recently, “I just like having my hands in dirt. To me, dirt isn’t dirty.”
“The roses at the park have never looked better commented,” Park Commissioner Larry Keister. As a Rotarian, he waters the park every other Monday. He continued, “I really enjoy the watering.” In late May, Washougal councilmember and retired mayor Mayor Molly Costen, also a Rotarian, enjoyed a family gathering putting a tablecloth on three of the park’s picnic tables positioned next to the beautiful rose arbor, with views of the Columbia River and Mt. Hood. Parker’s Landing Historical Park is a Washougal jewel. Without the volunteers, the park grass would be brown in the summer and the trees at risk.
Faithful volunteers, like Elena, and others deserve ongoing appreciation and recognition for the significant difference they make in park preservation and beauty for the public’s enjoyment.
The Port recognizes park volunteers every year. This year, on Sept. 19, before the regular Port Commissioners meeting, Elena and others were recognized and thanked for their hours of service at the park for Spring Beautification, Parkersville Day, and Summer Watering. Elena’s hours over the last two years exceeded all others.
To learn more about the park’s history and volunteer opportunities, contact PAC’s volunteer coordinator Susan Tripp or email ParkersLandingHistoricalPark@gmail.com
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