Washougal neighbors oppose adventure park

Residents near 150-acre Canyon Creek Road site say ‘community is very, very concerned’

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Washougal resident Mike Duzan on Monday, Sept. 4, 2023, gestures to a portion of a 150-acre property near his home that is slated for development as an adventure park. (Doug Flanagan/Post-Record)

Mike Duzan and Lindsey Brown have been living in their home on Washougal River Road since 2021. They love so many things about it — the seclusion, the stillness, the peace, the quiet, the proximity to the Washougal River, the abundance of wildlife, and the support of the “up-river community,” to name a few.

They feel that all of those things and more are being threatened by a proposed development that is literally encroaching on their property.

The Washougal couple is part of a group of residents who have organized an effort to stop an adventure park from being built in rural east Clark County.

“We have kids. We protect our kids, and feel safe with them here,” Brown said, looking out to the Washougal River from her backyard deck one gray afternoon earlier this month. “To imagine strangers glaring into our backyard, people venturing down to the water (next to our house) … our peace of mind would just be completely damaged. Our privacy (would be lost). Those are big things. I mean, (the development) is so close (to us).”

The residents say that the park, proposed to be constructed on a 150-acre plot of land at 4101 Canyon Creek Road and feature a “mountain coaster,” zip line course, net park and event venue, would present the area with a litany of problems in the categories of traffic, quality of life, environment, wildlife, economics and emergency services.

“I think that the community is very, very concerned,” said Washougal native and Trout Lake resident Amy McNealy, whose mother, Jo Hoffman, owns property near the proposed park. “We don’t want this to be a ‘not in our backyard’ situation. This is not something that we’ve waffled back and forth (about). We respect property owners and their rights and abilities to do what they want with their property, but zoning and code and all of those compliance (factors) in our government are put in place to protect those property owners as well, and this is that situation. We really feel like there’s a strong, unified front that we do not want the project, this is not the right place for it, the infrastructure is not there to support it.”

Hoffman and McNealy started a Facebook page called “Preserve the Washougal River (Road) area — STOP the amusement park” to provide updates about the project.

“My first thoughts were, ‘I really don’t want that there,’” said Hoffman, who lives on Hoffman Road near Salmon Falls. “Once he’s in there, he’s in there. He’s not going anywhere.”

The Facebook page had attracted 798 followers as of Thursday, Aug. 31, according to McNealy.

“I’m not necessarily surprised, because I do think that a lot of people should be upset about this,” McNealy said. “I’m encouraged to see people coming together for a cause and unite, and it makes me really happy that there hasn’t been infighting or anything like that. … It shows that the community is coming together for the good of the community.”

In July, the property’s owner, Derek Hoyte, invited residents who live within 500 feet of the proposed project area to a meeting, originally scheduled for Aug. 15, at Laurel Lane Event and Retreat Center in Washougal.

That meeting never happened.

“They canceled it because word got out,” Hoffman said. “Everybody heard about it and signed up. (Hoyte) expected a smaller group of people within 500 feet to come. He didn’t expect hundreds of people to RSVP. Then they sent a little ditty out that said that they were going to maybe find a larger venue, or most likely do it digitally.”

But Hoyte hasn’t communicated with the residents since then, McNealy said.

“They opened the door with the initial invitation,” she said, “and the door has seemingly slammed shut on communication to the community.”

In response to neighbors’ questions, Skamania County posted on its website that “there is currently no active application on file” for the project, and “therefore Community Development is not accepting public comment at this time. … There is no further information appropriate to share at this time as no application has been received.”

The neighbors, however, say they worry about the property owner’s history with similar projects.

Hoyte was briefly jailed in 2009, after Skamania County officials discovered he was operating six zip lines without permits on 83 acres of land he owned in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, according to a 2010 report by The Columbian, the Post-Record’s sister publication.

In 2010, the U.S. Attorney’s Office sued Hoyte in federal court in Tacoma, Washington, claiming the U.S. Forest Service confirmed reports that Hoyte had reinstalled zip lines on the property and was constructing a suspension bridge without permission, according to a 2010 report by The Oregonian.

In March 2022, four Haiku, Hawaii, residents sued NorthShore Zipline Company, also owned by Hoyte, alleging he “knowingly and intentionally disregard(ed) their concerns about noise, invasion of privacy and emotional distress,” according to a report by

“It is public knowledge that he had a blatant disregard for zoning and code compliance, and therefore was prosecuted and did jail time,” McNealy said. “That does not breed a lot of confidence that Mr. Hoyte intends to follow code and zoning compliance on this project. I want to be cognizant of not making any accusations, but the fact of the matter is he has proven that he does not respect nor comply with zoning or code concerns.”

McNealy added that the lack of communication between Hoyte and the concerned neighbors also is distressing.

“There’s a pattern of behavior that’s been going back to since 2010,” McNealy said. “When you have that repeated behavior, it doesn’t make you feel really comfortable that he’s going to change his business practices.”

McNealy said neighbors are making signs and “continuing to raise awareness for the project so that if a conditional use permit is filed and submitted (they’ll be) ready to show up at the public comment periods and make sure that there is no question about how the community feels about the project.”

She added, however, that she believes public comments alone might not be enough to stop the project.

“The only way that projects like this are stopped is if there is a violation, or if (the developers are) operating or intend to operate outside of some of the codes or the zoning,” she said. “So, that’s what we’re looking for, to make sure that we are prepared to discuss those points. We are shying away from as a group trying to anchor too heavily to Mr. Hoyte’s background. It is a factor because there is that pattern of behavior, but we’re trying to understand where we can find violations, whether that’s (through the) Department of Ecology, the Department of Natural Resources or other agencies.”

The residents near Hoyte’s land also worry the proposed park would add more traffic and wear-and-tear to roads “already at capacity” and “ill-maintained,” McNealy said.

“Washougal River Road and state Route 14 are two-lane roads, curvy, dangerous already with multiple accidents,” she said. “Is there going to be a traffic study done? Can the roads handle additional traffic to serve a facility of this size? Already, people park alongside the roads up there illegally in the summer.”

McNealy said he fears the park could create problems for the area’s wetlands, rivers and wildlife, and pose an increased fire risk.

“This property does house bald eagle nests, and there’s wetlands on the property,” McNealy said. “What will be the impact on the small and large game? What will be the impact on the fish?”

McNealy worries about how emergency services would reach the property.

“It’s a 100% volunteer fire department there, and they are at capacity,” she said. “Law enforcement in Skamania County covers a very large geographic area already. Will they be able to support it? Will emergency medical technicians be available to be able to support anything that happens there? And not just on the site, but if there’s motor vehicle accidents or accidents in the river, hiking, all of those things. We do have concerns whether or not the infrastructure is fair.”

The residents said they are concerned about possible increases in noise, privacy encroachment, and crime, and a negative impact on property values, McNealy said.

Brown and Duzan knew about the project well before they saw the invitation to the August meeting.

Duzan said he saw Hoyte walking along near the river one day earlier this year and asked the property owner about the “commotion” he and his family members had been recently hearing.

“I said, ‘Hey, what are you doing over there? Building condos?’ And he says, ‘Oh no, just a house or two,’ like it was his retirement home,” Duzan said. “And then he just turns around and wreaks havoc. … He lied to us.”

Hoyte “has been working on (the project) for six months with no permits,” according to Duzan.

“He’s knocked everything over there and just doesn’t care,” he said, pointing to a section of land across the river from his backyard deck. “I think his MO is to just demolish everything, get everything set to how he wants it, and then go ask for forgiveness and a permit once it’s ready – not beforehand.”

“Right here along the river, he’s been actively removing trees and clearing (debris),” Brown added. “We can look across where we used to not be able to see through the trees, you can see it’s all open and cleared now. We see excavators out there at nighttime, sometimes until midnight. He’s been operating under his timber company, so I’m sure he’s been able to get some kind of state (clearance). He’s been really sneaky about how he’s been operating.”

Duzan, who grew up in Washougal and purchased his home from his father in 2021, called the prospect of living next to a busy adventure park “pretty devastating.”

“When I bought this place, I thought I’d never seen anyone build over there,” he said. “We were a little devastated by the thought of houses going in over there, and then once we found out about the amusement park stuff, it was gut wrenching.”

Brown and Duzan hope that the project will be shut down altogether, but aren’t sure about how optimistic they can afford to be at this point. All they know for sure is that they love their home and their community, and they will continue to do whatever they can to preserve them.

“We don’t really know what we can do,” Brown said. “We wouldn’t stop fighting (if the park is built). We would continue to make noise about what we’re seeing. If it’s impacting our privacy or our kids, we’re going to report it. We’re going to do whatever it takes.”

Marty Snell, with Mackay Sposito, the Vancouver-based consulting firm Hoyte hired to oversee the project, did not respond to The Post-Record’s requests for comment.