It Takes a Village…to Create a Park!

June 4, 2019

It may “take a village to raise a child,” as the saying goes, but the Coalition saw last month that it truly takes a village to modernize a park and create a trail network! Our visit to Yakima and Cle Elum in early May highlighted the importance of partnerships and collaboration in making the vision of a better park or the dream of a nationwide trail network a reality. “Villages” both local and statewide raised funds, advocated in Olympia, and volunteered their time to create outdoor opportunities across the state.

In Yakima, the “village” was the local community coming together to improve 60-year-old, 40-acre Randall Park. The park in southwest Yakima was showing its age, so Yakima Parks and Recreation applied for and received a $500,000 WWRP Local Parks grant. It was a true community effort to raise the matching funding for the project. Three Rotary clubs as well as the West Valley Kiwanis Club and Lions Club of Yakima contributed more than $375,000 improvements to the park, with the city and others contributing the remainder of the $1,170,100 project. As Parks and Recreation Director Ken Wilkinson told the Yakima Herald, “I’ve never seen service groups give the way they do in Yakima. They really give back.”

The Coalition was thrilled to celebrate the re-opening of the park with the Yakima community. As the celebration took place, we saw retired folks walking the newly paved paths, kids squealing in delight over ducks splashing in the water, and families relaxing under new picnic shelters. We left inspired to tell the story of Randall Park to other communities across the state: successful WWRP projects are the result of local community partners coming together for the benefit of all.

In Cle Elum, the “village” was a passionate group of statewide trail advocates joining forces with a network of similar folks from across the country. The Coalition attended a celebration to unveil the proposed route of the cross-country “Great American Rail Trail,” that will connect Washington state to Washington D.C. In this Washington, the statewide Palouse to Cascades Trail (formerly known as the John Wayne or Iron Horse Trail) will form a critical link.

Much of the Palouse to Cascades Trail is already in use, but some segments need considerable work for the trail to be fully developed. Once again, diverse partners—from horse riders and wagons, to bicyclists and hikers—came together to advocate for improvements to the trail. They partnered with Washington State Parks to secure several WWRP grants to improve trail surfacing, rehabilitate bridges and trestles, and make the trail more user friendly. Coalition members and partners Palouse to Cascades Trail Coalition, Back Country Horsemen of Washington, John Wayne Pioneer Wagons and Riders Association, Washington Trails Association, Cascade Rail Foundation, and Washington Bikes deserve major kudos for all their hard work and tenacity to make this statewide—and now nationwide—trail a reality.

So as you picnic in Randall Park or ride your horse through ponderosa pine forests near Cle Elum, thank not just the WWRP and the Legislature, but also community partners like the Lions Club of Yakima and the Palouse to Cascades Trail Coalition. And then take a minute to pat yourself on the back—because your support of the Coalition is making these and hundreds of similar dreams into realities all across the state.