County unveils bold vision for parks' future

2010-12-25T20:30:00Z 2011-10-06T08:37:12Z County unveils bold vision for parks' futureBy Barbara LaBoe Longview Daily News
December 25, 2010 8:30 pm  • 

An extreme mountain biking park. Kayaking, canoeing and sculling at Coal Creek Slough and Silver Lake. Park space for remote control cars and remote control airplanes. Overnight camping at Willow Grove.

These and other proposed recreation developments are part of an ambitious, 15-year parks plan the Cowlitz County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board adopted earlier this month.

"It's an aggressive plan," said Cowlitz County Commissioner Axel Swanson. "And it's important that there are new things in here. ... They did this on their own and didn't spend a bunch of money to do it. It's a great plan."

The county's park plan hadn't been updated since the 1990s. The new plan, done in-house by the parks board, is a guide for how the county should expand parks facilities in the coming years, said Ron Junker, the county's facilities maintenance and parks director.

"Our goal is to provide recreational opportunities for all citizens," Junker said. "We want to encourage healthy lifestyles, and we need to provide the opportunities for people to do that."

Some projects are site-specific, including completing the restoration of Harry Gardner Park to its pre-Mount St. Helens-eruption condition by 2013. That would include RV and tent camping and support of hiking and river access. Other goals, though, are more conceptual and don't even have firm locations yet.

By 2020, for example, the board would like to see areas for Frisbee golf, an off-leash dog park and parks for BMX and extreme mountain biking. Under the plan, the county will identify and acquire land for those ventures. According to National Recreation & Parks Association standards, the county needs 362 more acres of park land for its population's needs, the report states.

Officials also would like to create a park in the southern part of the county, which they say is underserved. The plan calls for land to be purchased for such a park by 2020. That's the same year the board would like to see RV and tent camping added to Willow Grove, as well as overnight boat moorage and a space to allow windsurfing.

An ATV park, including large boulders for the machines to "climb," also is included in the plan. Ideally, it would be located on the county owned dredge spoils land near Castle Rock.

And, eventually, board members would like to see a winter park east of Toutle that would include space for sledding, inner tubing, snow showing, snowmobiling and cross country skiing. That long-term goal is slated for between 2013 and 2021 and depends on getting U.S. Forest Service or other nearby land, Junker said. An indoor sports complex also is included on the list for 2025.

No official survey was done to help develop the goals, but Junker said the board regularly receives suggestions about what the community would like in new or improved parks.

The plan contains no cost estimates, and the parks board acknowledges that finding money for these projects will be difficult during tough economic times. But the plan includes several funding options, including creating public-private partnerships, a foundation to raise money and other mechanisms to allow people to donate for specific parks projects, Junker said.

"(The plans) are exciting, and now the question is, ‘How do we fund this?' " he said.

Updating the plan also allows the county to apply for more grants that can be used to supplement parks projects.

Some of the park plans — such as adding back RV and tent camping at Harry Gardner Park — also should generate revenue that could be used on other projects, Junker said. And, adding or improving parks also is one way to draw more people, and business, to the community, he added.

"I believe the people who want to move here are looking for great recreation for themselves and their families."

The parks plan, including the entire list of goals, is available online at: http://www.co.cowlitz.wa.us/files/Parks%20Comp%20Plan%202010%20.pdf

Copyright 2014 Longview Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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