Port unveils long-awaited natural play area

Sasquatch sculpture at heart of new public space at Washougal riverfront

The new natural play area at the Washougal Riverfront Park and Trail includes drums (left) and a xylophone.

The Port of Camas-Washougal unveiled "Eegah," a 9-foot-tall sasquatch sculpture at the heart of the new natural play area at the Washougal Riverfront Park and Trail, on Friday, June 7.

David Ripp, chief executive officer for the Port of Camas-Washougal, talks about the development of the Port's new Natural Play Area during a grand opening event June 7 at Washougal Riverfront Park and Trail. (Doug Flanagan/Post-Record)

Camas resident Ben Miles helps his daughter, Lillian, 2, with a scavenger hunt on Friday, June 7, at a grand opening event for the natural play area at Washougal Riverfront Park and Trail.

One year after its intended opening, the Port of Camas-Washougal has unveiled its new natural play area featuring a giant sasquatch sculpture at the Washougal Waterfront Park and Trail.

The Port had hoped to finish the project in the summer of 2018, but decided to delay after construction bids came back $100,000 over budget.

At the natural play area’s grand opening ceremony on Friday, June 7, David Ripp, chief executive officer for the Port of Camas-Washougal, credited several groups and organizations, including the Parks Foundation of Clark County, the Norman C. Danielson Foundation, Camas-Washougal Rotary Club and state legislators from Washington’s 18th District for helping make the play area a reality.

“The community gives to us and trusts us in creating jobs, building infrastructure and trying to market and bring business here,” Ripp said. “(This is) kind of our thank-you to them for allowing us to do what we do. We have to give back, and it’s about what’s best for the community.”

The park’s main attraction is 9-foot-tall sasquatch named “Eegah” made of reinforced steel, GeoFoam and glass fiber-reinforced concrete. The figure is situated near “Erric the Erratic,” a boulder that traveled on a glacier from Canada to the Camas-Washougal area in the Missoula Floods.

Ben Miles, of Camas, attended the June 7 grand opening, and said he has been looking forward to the opening of the play area — a natural attraction for his children, 2-year-old Lillian and 1-year-old Benson — for several months.

“I heard about this at a Rotary meeting,” Miles said. “A couple weeks later, we decided to have a picnic down here, and we walked by, and it was all closed off. We were talking about what it would be … things to play on and make music with, and they started to get really excited.”

Other park features include log steppers, a xylophone, drums, willow tree tunnels, log balancing beams and a climbing rope. Construction crews will install an embankment slide later this month.

“(Benson’s) a climber, so (he likes) anything he can go up on. The rocks, especially — anything where he can hurt himself,” Miles said. “Lillian likes to slide down the grass the most. She likes sliding and walking across things, so to walk across the wall and across some wood and across some stones is pretty fun for her.”

Port of Camas-Washougal Commissioner Larry Keister described the area as “a win for the Port and a win for the community.”

Ripp agreed.

“I love seeing kids,” Ripp said. “Mine are all grown, so I don’t get to have that experience anymore, but I love watching the kids play. I think it’s going to be this (busy) all summer. This is the reward for what the Port’s built and constructed. This is why we wanted this. It’s going to be a destination for people to want to visit our waterfront.”

Miles said he “appreciates how the Port has done a lot to create their own revenue for themselves.”

“This is a prime viewing area, and they could easily tear down trees and sell this, but they’ve set it aside for the enjoyment (of the community),” Miles said. “(Lillian) asked David (Ripp) when the slide was going to be in, and he said, ‘About two weeks,’ so we already have plans to come back.”

Portland-based GreenWorks, P.C. designed the play area; Keystone Contracting of Ridgefield constructed it; and ID Sculpture of Gunnison, Colorado, built the sasquatch sculpture. In total, the natural play area cost $528,798.