Washougal celebrates Columbia River Connector Trail

City’s $1.75 million ‘final link’ trail connects Waterfront Park to Washougal’s Steamboat Landing

A group of local and regional dignitaries, including state Sen. Ann Rivers (fourth from left) state Reps. Larry Hoff (far left) and Brandon Vick (third from left), Washougal Mayor Molly Coston (second from right) and Port of Camas-Washougal Commissioner Larry Keister (third from right) cut a ribbon during a ceremony to commemorate the completion of the Columbia River Connector Trail on Monday, June 7, 2021. (Doug Flanagan/Post-Record)

During a conversation over coffee in 2017, then-Washougal City Council member Joyce Lindsay told Port of Camas-Washougal Commissioner Larry Keister that the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office had rejected the city of Washougal’s grant application for funds to connect the Washougal Waterfront Park and Trail with Steamboat Landing.

Knowing what the proposed path could mean for Camas and Washougal, Keister and Lindsay decided they simply couldn’t take “no” for an answer, so they came up with a plan.

First, they formed an ad-hoc committee consisting of Lance Killian of Portland-based Killian Construction; Kim Noah, the Port of Camas-Washougal’s director of operations; and Renee Tkach, the Friends of the Columbia Gorge’s “Towns to Trails” project manager.

On Monday, June 7, Keister was on hand at a ribbon-cutting to witness the opening of the connector trail he and Lindsay dreamed of.

“We invited Senator (Ann) Rivers to join us,” Keister told a crowd of people gathered for the new Columbia River Connector Trail’s ribbon-cutting on June 7. “We explained the importance of the trail benefits for the Port, but also the economic benefits for downtown Washougal. And today, with Senator Rivers’ assistance, we have our trail.”

The ceremony marked the end of the project, in which Vancouver-based Keystone Construction and Montreal, Quebec-based engineering and design firm WSP USA built a 3,500-foot concrete path that provides the final link in a 20-mile-long series of trails reaching across most of East Clark County.

“The reason for me that it was so easy to support this project was not just the idea of connecting communities, but there is a vision that we can have a trail around the entire Gorge so that people can come from all over and enjoy this gorgeous area,” said Rivers, R-La Center. “It can be an economic development project for us, but also an opportunity for residents to engage in physical activity and to really grow their love for the environment that we live in here in Southwest Washington.”

The city of Washougal funded the $1.75 million project with a $1 million Washington Department of Commerce grant and money from the city’s general projects fund.

“As state legislators, we get asked for a lot of money,” state Rep. Brandon Vick, R-Vancouver, said. “Washougal and Camas aren’t shy about asking for money. But we have to prioritize, and (we knew) this project has been well thought-out from the beginning. We know that when we put money in, it’s going to be spent well and spent responsibly, and the results are going to be what we thought they were going to be.”

The trail will provide recreation access in both directions along the riverfront.

To the west, it will connect directly to the Waterfront Trail and other popular recreation destinations, including the Washougal River Greenway and Lacamas and Heritage parks.

To the east, the U.S. Corps of Engineers Levee trail will lead trail users from Steamboat Landing Park through the Highway 14 pedestrian tunnel into downtown Washougal or beyond to Captain William Clark Regional Park, Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge and Gibbons Creek Wildlife Art Trail.

“In my travels across my district, I am sensing an earnest and genuine desire for community reconnection,” Rivers said. “We’ve all been separated for a year and a half or thereabouts, and people really want to be together. So, when we can support projects like this that not only figuratively but literally connect parts of Washougal that had been disconnected, then we are helping to fuel that reconnection, and that’s so important.”