Port of Camas-Washougal Commissioner John Spencer concluded his speech at the grand-opening ceremony for Washougal’s newest park on Thursday, Sept. 7, by sticking out his elbows to mimic a bird’s wings.
“We’re all here at Eagle View Park. Doesn’t anybody want to do an ‘eagle cry’?” he asked the gathered crowd.
The Port of Camas-Washougal commissioner flapped his “wings” up and down, screeched twice, then smiled and said, ‘There you go,” before turning away from the podium.
Local residents and community leaders laughed at Spencer’s momentary display of enthusiasm, which segued into a more formal introduction of Washougal’s newest park, the 1-acre Eagle View Park.
Nestled between the new Ninebark Apartments complex and the Columbia River riparian area along the Washougal riverfront, the new park features a concrete paved walking path, trails, artwork, and community gathering spaces.
Washougal Mayor David Stuebe recalled that the area used to be “just a little cement strip” that held no promise of what the future park might offer.
“It was pretty, but we didn’t have the vision,” Stuebe said. “(Now) it’s come to reality. This looks really gorgeous. This is going to be a great addition to our community. This is a perfect way to utilize our space for our community to enjoy the river.”
Organized as a “nature-based experience,” Eagle View Park contains three primary gardens, each with elements that celebrate local ecology, culture and commerce. Through the use of regionally specific plants, locally sourced materials and the re-use of native site boulders, the park’s character “is an homage to the river landscape,” according to a news release issued by the city of Washougal.
“When we began the project in mid-2020, we knew we wanted to create a space that complemented the waterfront trail, not something that detracted from it or competed with it. That’s just not in the spirit of the land that (the park) sits on,” said Tommy Solomon of Ground Workshop, a Portland-based landscape architecture studio that designed the park. “We wanted to craft something that as you walk along could spark curiosity, something that could tell a story, something that could tempt you to walk off the trail and take a wander through the gardens. But more importantly, to celebrate this special place, because at the end of the day, placemaking is what we do.”
The park also features a piece of artwork titled, “Quaytskin,” created by Grand Ronde, Oregon, resident Travis Stewart, a contemporary Northwest artist of Chinook, Rogue River and Kalapuya descent.
“‘Quaytskin’ is a contemporary interpretation of a ‘welcome figure,’ a traditional marker of place and true land acknowledgement for the Chinook people who have called the villages along the Columbia River home for thousands of years,” said Chelsea Rooklyn, brand manager for Killian Pacific, the Portland-based real estate company that developed the park. “It offers the opportunity to revitalize a nearly forgotten art form that originated in this region, bringing attention to its earliest inhabitants while acting as a signal of goodwill to all those who call this place home.”
Killian Pacific partnered with the Port of Camas-Washougal to exchange land for the park.
The Port acquired property west of Ninebark while the land that Ninebark now occupies went to Killian Pacific, which agreed to create the new park as part of the agreement. Killian Pacific and Ninebark will manage the park for the next eight years, then turn over maintenance responsibilities to the the city of Washougal.
“Projects like this come together through collaboration and working together,” said Kevin Valk, owner of Holst Architecture, a Portland-based firm that designed the park. “We do a fair amount of public-private projects, but seeing the ability of the Port and the City to work together with a private partnership is unlike what I’ve seen before.”
Spencer agreed that the project came together as a result of “partnerships.”
“This is the epitome of what can happen when you’ve got the public sector partnering with the public sector and the public sector partnering with the private sector,” he added. “It’s just been a real joy to see everybody coming together.”
“There was a lot of back and forth between Killian Development and the Port as far as what this park would look like,” he added. “One (thing that) I did not want to see was the apartments smack up against the walkway. You don’t want the public in the back door of the apartments, and the public doesn’t really want the apartments staring down at them, so having a long park like this really does a great job of providing that buffer. It’s going to be a very active space for both the residents of the apartments and residents of the community.”