Mossyrock Woman Receives Award for Community Work —

Mossyrock Woman Receives Award for Community Work

By Stephanie Schendel
Centralia Chronicle

The 32-acre Klickitat Prairie Park in Mossyrock is more than just a city park; it has given young people in the small community a safe place to spend their time.

The woman behind the creation of Klickitat Prairie Park, Rebecca Sutherland, a former Mossyrock police officer, received the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition’s 2012 Joan Thomas Award last week. The award is aimed at honoring the work she has done not only in her community, but toward the overall effort to protect the conservation of parks and wildlife habitats throughout the state.

The idea for Klickitat Prairie began one night in August of 2008, when Sutherland was out on patrol and stopped to talk to a group of young adults sitting outside a church on a donation box at about 10 p.m. When she asked them why they were hanging out there, she said they replied that they did not have anything else to do.

“I knew it was only matter of time before I had to contact them again, but not in a positive way,” Sutherland said.

The next day, she said, she approached the mayor about starting a project that would give young adults in the community a place to spend their time.

Sutherland, who had no prior grant writing experience, began submitting proposals that allowed the city to acquire funds to buy the land and begin to develop it into a park.

“We promised the community that we would not have any taxes,” she said. “Like most of Lewis County, we’re a pretty impoverished area.”

Slowly, the project began to fall into place.

Some time after her conversation with the teens outside the church, she was out on patrol and did a routine check of a bar. While she was there, one of the bar’s patrons assaulted another man by smashing his head with a board.

Because the tavern had a space for minors to hang out, the violent assault was witnessed by a handful of 7-year-olds.

“It just reinforced that we had to do something,” she said. “We had to change something.”

The park is a longterm project and is not finished yet, but the results of Sutherland’s efforts have so far been exciting, said Thomas Meade, the mayor of Mossyrock.

“She has been really focused on building something in particular that the young population in the area can use,” Meade said.

Sutherland began working for the city of Mossyrock about four years ago, Meade said. While she originally started as a police and code enforcement officer, she has transitioned her focus and now works as a park manager for the city, as well as an assistant city clerk.

Currently, they are constructing a playground in the park, and hope to soon build a community center, a skate park and a parking lot, Meade said. Eventually, the city hopes to move the annual Blueberry Festival from downtown to the park to give the community staple more space.

With the park, he said, the city’s goal is to continue to help it grow and serve not only the community living within city limits, but those who live in the surrounding area as well.

In addition to aiding her community with her work in developing the Klickitat Prairie Park project, Sutherland has also been an asset in working with the coalition, said Hannah Clark, the campaign director for the WWRC.

In addition to traveling to Olympia to meet with Sen. Dan Swecker, R-Rochester, to advocate for her project, she also flew to Washington D.C. — her first time ever on a plane — to lobby Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, to support the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

“She saw that kids in the town of Mossyrock didn’t have somewhere to go, and needed a community space,” Clark said, later adding, “That is the kind of commitment that makes her amazing.

Read the complete story at Centralia Chronicle
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