A hidden treasure

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Vern and Faye Schanilec, of Washougal, recently made a contribution of $15,000 that will go to help construct an overlook deck on a pond located along the Washougal River Greenway Trail in Camas. The couple, who previously lived in Camas for 20 years, are frequent trail users. They are among several local residents who were recognized today for their contributions to area parks and open space during the Parks Foundation luncheon in Vancouver.

Vern and Faye Schanilec describe the Washougal River Greenway Trail as one of the “hidden treasures of Camas.”

The Schanilecs walk the trail often, and Vern provided assistance with an Eagle Scout project that resulted in the planting of 12 red leaf maple trees along one portion of the walkway.

It’s become a special place to the couple who moved to the Camas-Washougal area 26 years ago, from Bemidji, Minn.

“It’s such a peaceful place,” Faye said of the Washougal River Greenway Trail. “I think it’s important to have a place to come to, where you can commune with nature. It’s serene and restful.”

Hoping to offer visitors more opportunities to enjoy the area’s tranquility, the Schanilecs recently made a $15,000 donation through the Parks Foundation to support a $50,000 project that will add a 325 square foot wood plank observation deck to a pond adjacent to the trail. The endeavor will also include a paved access path, rock wall, railing, bench and landscaping.

An additional $15,377 is being contributed through the Parks Foundation, including $2,000 from the Georgia Pacific Community Giving Fund. The city of Camas has also committed $20,000.

Vern, a retired pharmacist, first stepped forward to present the idea for the project to city leaders about a year ago, but enhancing the trail is a topic he’s considered since 2010, when it officially opened to the public.

“The day it was dedicated was the first time I’d seen it,” Schanilec said of the 1.1-mile trail that includes a steel-trussed pedestrian bridge over the Washougal River. “I just thought ‘Wow.’ We began to look at the potential for things to do here. We felt it was time to give back.”

The trail is located within the 125-acre Washougal River Greenway, and runs from Northeast Third Avenue Loop and Crown Road to Northeast Second Avenue and Yale Street. It consists of a raised cement boardwalk as well as nearly 5,000 linear feet of hard surfaced pathway.

The planned observation deck, the first of its kind on this portion of the trail system, will be located at its westerly end not far from the entrance at Second Avenue and Yale Street.

“The observation deck will be a one-of-a-kind experience for wildlife viewing, picnicking or relaxing along the Heritage Trail corridor that extends seven miles through Camas to Washougal to the east and Vancouver to the west,” stated the city’s grant application to the Parks Foundation.

The Schanilec’s commitment to the local project is being recognized today during a Parks Foundation luncheon at the Vancouver Hilton, when the contribution will be officially announced.

Camas Parks and Recreation Commission President Brent Erickson said the community will benefit from the Schanilec’s generosity.

“It’s not every day that you have private citizens who want to promote their vision for an additional use to the public along a waterway, and also contribute a large portion of the funding,” he said. “The citizens will soon have a great addition to the trail to enjoy.”

Construction on the overlook is expected to begin in September or October, and be completed in November.

“I’d like this to be a destination point,” Vern said of the secluded trail that is sometimes overlooked by local residents. “Just look at how beautiful this area is this time of year.”