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Willow Grove Park walking path 'a Christmas present to the community'

Willow Grove Park walking path 'a Christmas present to the community'

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New walking path at Willow Grove

Cowlitz County resident Jim Boylon trains with his two-year-old Labrador Retriever "Raven" on Willow Grove's new walking path Tuesday morning.

Construction of a new, nearly half-mile walking path at Willow Grove Park will finish by Dec. 25 as a sort of “Christmas present to the community,” said Port of Longview Project Engineer Randy Sundberg.

The 8-foot-wide, compressed gravel walkway will complete a loop that starts at the parking lot, weaves through a few trees and passes by the playground. It attaches into the park’s current walking path.

“The path that is there right now is on the water side along the river. It just connects into the parking areas, so it’s not a loop,” Sundberg said. “The intent behind the new path was to create a loop that’s about a mile long, now, with both paths together.”

Sundberg said the path will comply with Americans with Disabilities Act standards and “just adds a lot to the usability of the park.” Construction on the path started last week, and some community members have already dropped by the park to test out portions of the gravel walkway, Sundberg said.

The new path is one of several improvement projects planned for the park, which the port acquired from Cowlitz County in 2015.

Port officials have a “desire ... to make the park a much better facility and more user friendly,” Sundberg said. “We want to update the facilities there to make it a better place for the public.”

Just over $890,000 in upgrades are planned for the park over the next three years. A state grant will cover about half of the cost, Sundberg said.

Improvement projects for the upcoming year include replacing the waterfront path so it matches the newly added path in the loop.

“The waterfront pathway right now is a 3-foot-wide asphalt path, but it’s not wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side, and there are some roots growing up, causing trip hazards,” Sundberg said. “That will all be taken out and this eight-foot gravel path will be installed (next year).”

The port will also add a couple of picnic shelters at the park and renovate the bathrooms, Sundberg said.

Additional park improvements, including construction of a platform overlooking the river and installation of interpretive signs, are planned for 2021 and 2022, Sundberg said.

“We hope the public will thoroughly enjoy the park and enjoy it more,” Sundberg said. “It’s a great facility for our area, and we just want people to use it and enjoy it as a great place to recreate.”

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