They need your votes to help win a vital piece of equipment from John Deere
RIDGEFIELD — The transformation of Whipple Creek hasn’t gone unnoticed by the public, and it also hasn’t escaped the attention of John Deere. The company best known for its riding lawn mowers also makes plenty of other kinds of equipment, and each year they pick a transformative public project to give away one of their smaller machines.
This year, the Whipple Creek Park Restoration project is one of the three finalists, out of around 400 contestants, but they need your vote in order to bring home the prize.
“Because 50 percent of the conditions to win is the amount of voting,” says Anita Will, who started the Whipple Creek Restoration Committee almost eight years ago. “They want to know that we have public support.”
Will tells ClarkCountyToday.com she usually rode her horses farther north, but as gas prices rose that became too expensive. When she looked for a place to ride closer to home, she found Whipple Creek Regional Park. The 350 acres of largely unspoiled nature nestles just west of the Clark County Fairgrounds, offering around 10 miles of trails, old growth forests, and plenty of wildlife.
When Will began using the park, it was managed by the city of Vancouver. Well-meaning workers had coated many miles of the park’s trails with wood mulch, which was fine during the Summer months. But when Fall and Winter arrived, the mulch simply held the water in, creating muddy and dangerous conditions, especially for horses on the steep terrain.
Will began working with the city, and eventually the county after they took over management of the park, to remove the mulch and bring in gravel. Today, there are more than four miles of gravel pathways inside the park. This past Winter all unfinished trails were off limits to horses and dirt bikes, on the honor system, in the hopes of keeping them in better shape. Tyler Castle, president of the WCRC, says the move was largely successful. That means volunteers, who’ve already spent over 8,000 hours there in the past six years, can focus on continuing to improve trails, rather than just trying to keep them passable.
“In recent time we’re actually having more difficulty getting volunteers to come out and work,” Castle says, “because the trail system is seen as complete.”
In truth, he says, a stretch of graveled pathway is good for only about three years before more needs to be added, meaning the work to keep the existing pathways in good shape is never-ending. And that’s not counting the continuing work to improve conditions on other parts of the park. There’s also work to eventually restore much of the historic mill on the park’s southern end, including bringing the iconic water wheel back. It was removed years ago, due to problems with age and vandalism.
Of course hauling tons of gravel every year means a lot of heavy lifting by the volunteers that do show up during monthly work days. It also means a lot of walking through the park in order to reach areas that need to be worked on. That’s where the John Deere equipment would come in handy, because it could haul loads of gravel into difficult-to-reach areas, or even use attachments to help clear the plants that are constantly working to reclaim the work humans have done.
“When we’re hiking and stuff, we don’t always see all the animals,” says Will, who often gets emotional talking about the park, “but if we sit still for a few minutes, the park kind of comes back to life, and the animals, the birds, and even the slugs will look at you.”
To vote for Whipple Creek Regional Park, and to see a video John Deere made about the park and what’s being done there, click here. Voting continues until June 24. Even if Whipple Creek doesn’t win, they’ll still get to use one of the skid steer machines free for a year.