Council hears push for park on east side of Battle Ground

35 acres with intention for open space has been on hold for 30 years, family says


A 35-acre piece of land owned by the city of Battle Ground may be turned into the park its previous owners envisioned, though concerns about operating it loom over any formal decision.

During a workshop ahead of its regular Feb. 7 meeting, the Battle Ground City Council heard from proponents who want the land developed into a recreational park on property located on the north side of Northeast 219th Street, around the 17600 block. The land is situated to the east of city limits.

Prior to government ownership the land belonged to the Durkee family. Virginia and Dorthy, the descendents of patriarch R.S. Durkee, decided to give the property to Clark County “for the specific purpose of allowing the public to have a place that would be safe and preserved to go on a nature walk, air out their minds … because they knew as the city was developed that that would be very rare,” Susan Tripp, a descendant of the Durkee family, said at the meeting.

The property was deeded over to the county in 1992, with a quit claim deed given to the city in 2011, Tripp said. City Councilor Shane Bowman said the county turned the property over to the city after it was not able to use the land for wetland mitigation.

If opened, Tripp said the park would meet a number of city goals, from beautification of the city to making strategic partnerships with the Durkee family. She envisions the park as a local respite for those in the city

“What I imagine is … people that are shopping on Main Street, people that work on Main Street, (will) just know down the road they can come and just take a walk in nature,” Tripp said.

“You can be the council that has a plaque at this park, that opened the park after 30 years,” Tripp said. 

The park would also be supported by the Clark County Historical Museum. Museum Executive Director Brad Richardson said the museum has worked in the past to install interpretive panels in Vancouver and Camas to tell the history of the area, which is something it could do at the Durkee property if it becomes a city park.

“What we see is a really excellent opportunity to engage families, to engage kids and people in a very open space, where they’re going to get to explore a piece of Battle Ground history,” Richardson said.

He said the museum has had “amazing success” with historic promotions grant funding through the county Historic Preservation Commission in the past. He said the museum has not yet brought a lot of grant-funded projects to Battle Ground, something he’d like to change. He mentioned the museum does tours of Battle Ground during the summer to show off the city’s history.

The $2,000 to $3,000 cost per interpretive panel would be easily covered by the $12,000 to $15,000 per grant the commission usually gives out, Richardson said. He noted the grant cycle deadline is in September if the city wants to utilize the funding opportunity for next year.  

Lyla Smith, who lives on an adjacent property to the land, said she is strongly in favor of having the city develop the land into a park. She said she’d like to see trails on the property, as there is the potential for a mile-long path along the perimeter.

“We’re really in favor of getting the park open,” Smith said.

Gloria Lindquist, Smith’s mother, knew Virginia and Dorothy, and said finally using the land as it was intended is something they would have wanted.

“I know that this is a dream to have this happen for their dad. That’s why they deeded it,” Lindquist said.

Councilor Bowman said the property was deeded over to the city with anticipation there would be some kind of park, though the city’s ability at the time it was deeded was limited.

“We have not had the money, nor have we had the resources,” Bowman said. 

He noted the 2020 annexation of the city into Clark County Fire District 3 freed up some money to focus on infrastructure.

“That’s one of the things that the citizens told us. They want more open space, they want more parks, they want places to recreate,” Bowman said. “The one thing that we didn’t do that was bad from our standpoint, in my opinion, we didn’t ask them how they want to pay for it.”

Without the needed infrastructure like parking at the property, Bowman believes complaints from nearby residents would be swift if the city opens access to the land.

“I think it is something that is on our radar (and) we are looking at. It’s just going to be how do we fund this,” Bowman said.

Both Bowman and councilor Adrian Cortes touched on the maintenance cost associated with opening the 35 acres to the public.

“It’s more of the long-term capital outlay that we’ll have to spend,” Cortes said, noting adequate staffing and policies for overnight camping and vandalism would need to be addressed.

“It’s not something as simple as just throwing a bench and tables and mowing the grass a couple of times,” Cortes said.

Cortes said he felt there was “a lot of hostility” when the family came to the city to discuss the park’s use.

“I think it could have been handled a little bit differently, and with a little bit more, perhaps, humility, when it comes to the approach, but that’s in the past,” Cortes said.

Tripp apologized if any of her previous efforts came off as hostile. She said she’s been working with the city for almost three years to get movement on the park, which she’d like to see done sooner rather than later.

“I would like to see this property open when my cousins who are 80, 79 and 78 can cut the ribbon,” Tripp said.

Battle Ground Mayor Philip Johnson didn’t make a commitment, but said the park’s development is on the city’s radar.

“I see the future for that property. I think it does really come into play here in Battle Ground,” Johnson said. “It’s a very important piece of property to us and I believe that we’ll get this ball rolling.”


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