Living on Pacific time

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter



East Vancouver’s Pacific Park might be well known for its off-leash dog area, but the 56-acre landscape offers a lot more than just fun for playful puppies.

Pacific Park

Where: 1515 NE 164th Ave.

Amenities: Playground, half-court basketball, 2.1 miles of walking trails, 10,000-square-foot extreme sports park, picnic shelter and tables, sports fields, 8-acre off-leash dog park, restrooms, drinking fountains.

Size: 56 acres.

Hours: 7 a.m. to dusk.

Information: or call 360-487-8323.

With an extreme skate park, playground, basketball hoops, wooded trails and sports fields, there’s something for folks of all ages and interests.

Spending a warm, relatively sunny 12 hours roaming the grounds on Monday, Sept. 12, revealed just how many consider it “their” park.

Here’s how the day unfolded:

7:05 a.m. Pam Goe, a medical sales rep and former president of the group DogPaw, brings Molly, her spotted Labrador, and Jewel, her husky mix, for a casual stroll in the park’s8-acre off-leash area. Goe helped DogPaw lobby to get the popular area built about five years ago.

“I like coming here early,” Goe said. “It’s nice and quiet. If you come in the afternoon there are a lot of dogs and people. It gets crowded.”

She said she especially likes that she can let 8-year-old Molly and 12-year-old Jewel each walk at their own pace along the cement pathway.

“If you have more than one dog, they don’t usually move at the same speed,” Goe said. “And when they have the freedom to be off-leash, they’re so much calmer.”

7:33 a.m. Daniel Norcross, 19, a maintenance worker, takes advantage of the empty extreme park and practices some tricks on his skateboard. Usually there are a lot of BMX bikers there and you have to wait for your turn, he said.

“I avoid the crowds,” Norcross said. “In the morning the air’s nice and crisp, the sun’s out. It’s a nice workout before work.”

8:30 a.m. The dog population in the off-leash area continues to steadily grow. Owners and their dogs cluster in small groups near the woody nature area, saying hello and getting ready for the day.

8:41 a.m. Along the park’s forested walking trails, a man with a bird feather sticking out of the back of his hat walks his pit bull without a leash — a Pacific Park no-no outside of the designated area. He doesn’t make eye contact, walks faster down the trail and still doesn’t leash his dog even though he sees another person behind him.

8:50 a.m. Craig McKellar hikes through the moist, pine-scented air on the park’s back trails. Every morning he tries to walk about two miles before work.

“I like it in the morning,” McKellar said. “It gives you a chance to think about things before you start your day.”

9:05 a.m. Dianne Sullivan, a Clark County Public Works ground maintenance specialist, pulls equipment from her truck and starts cleaning debris around ornamental plants. She gets to Pacific Park generally at least once a week and does a variety of jobs, including removing garbage and cleaning up graffiti, she said.

“I’m just going through the beds, fine-tuning things,” Sullivan said. “I’m trying to get rid of grasses, weed them. It’s a busy day. This is a huge park.”

9:30 a.m. Esther Torrez, 24, and her 2-year-old son, Levi, enjoy a little time at the park’s playground. It’s her first time here, but she says she’d love to come back soon.

“I mostly like to take him to the park in the mornings because it’s cooler,” Torrez said. “Usually we just come in summer, just because it’s a better time for the little ones. It’s too wet for them in fall and winter.”

9:40 a.m. Nichole Sauer, 27, helps her sons Derek Sauer, 4, and Zackarie Sauer, 7, swivel around in a circle on one of the playground’s many unusual-looking play structures. Levi Torrez, 2, joins the Sauer brothers, who, under their mom’s attentive supervision, carefully give Levi a ride.

“Sometimes we spend most of the day here, just to let these two guys burn off some steam,” Nicole Sauer said.

10:20 a.m. Retirees Louie Nichols and Richard Hendryx take a long stroll around the park’s paved and gravel paths after a quick pit stop at the public bathrooms.

“You have to get your heart pumping so you can go home and work,” Nichols said, noting that “if you’re a property owner, you always work.”

The two friends only recently discovered the area, but have made it a part of their regular routine.

“We just come here, walk the trails, get some exercise and then go home and take a nap,” Hendryx said.

10:55 a.m. Tanneke and Frank Blouin alternate between jogging and walking along the park’s trails. Frank, who works for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said he and his wife especially appreciate that the park is so well-maintained.

“The people that do the upkeep on this place, they’re always working,” Frank said. “It’s a very nice place. Everyone is very friendly and considerate. They do a great job.”

11:15 a.m. After a gray morning, the sun finally pops out, dispersing the clouds. Over at the extreme park, a chorus of cheers erupt as Kamren Franck, 17, nails a 360-indie move on his skateboard.

“I usually skate at Swift Skate Park, but we just woke up and decided to skate here instead,” Franck said. “I like it here. It’s better. It’s funner. Everything’s smooth here.”

When asked why he wasn’t in school, Franck said that he goes to Camas High School, and classes didn’t start yet.

According to the Camas School District calendar, classes started on Sept. 6.

11:25 a.m. Apparently only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun. The off-leash park is strangely deserted.

11:40 a.m. The playground is also deserted. Under the covered picnic area, two young men carry on a serious conversation, huddled across a table in the shade.

Dianne Sullivan of Clark County Public Works makes it over to an island of rose bushes, which has become especially tricky to clean.

“It wouldn’t be so bad if these weren’t roses, but they’re thorny,” Sullivan said. “You try to use the (leaf) blower to get the debris out, but it just gets more stuck in there.”

Noon: All’s quiet except for the hum of Carolene Carroll’s mower. Carroll, who also works for Clark County Public Works, stops briefly to say hello to her friend Dianne Sullivan. “When we fertilize the grass it grows really fast. You have to cut it at least twice a week,” Carroll said. “I wish my hair would grow that fast.”

12:23 p.m. A new crop of kids and parents filter into the playground. Some dog walkers reappear.

12:33 p.m. Two small children have found something of interest next to a tree. “That’s not a stick! Don’t touch it!” their mom yells after them.

1:05 p.m. Kayla Acevedo and Cody Olson, both 18, relax on a log at the off-leash park with Acevedo’s poodle, Lilly. The two discuss how hard it is for younger people to find work right now. Acevedo has the day off from her seasonal Halloween job at Party City. Olson is unemployed. It’s his first time at the park, but Acevedo is a Pacific Park veteran. Looking around, Olson said he wants to bring his dog next time. “The trees, and having a place to sit, it’s a nice part of this off-leash area,” Acevedo said. “I really love having this area with the trees.”

1:40 p.m. On the back trails, the caw of birds and twang of a basketball in a nearby neighborhood are all that break the early afternoon silence. A small black creature scurries into the brush.

1:50 p.m. A group of about five young men cluster at the end of a dark, overgrown path into the trees. They look around, suspiciously, at the sound of nearby footsteps.

2 p.m. Diana Thomas prepares a picnic lunch by the playground for her fraternal 4-year-old twin boys, Devyn and Dylan.

“During the school year we usually venture out more into the park,” Thomas said. “I have an older daughter, she’s 10, so we usually go to the park while she’s at school. I’m hoping it will be nap time when she gets out and I bring them home.”

Devyn, however, has other ideas.

“No. You’re not that lucky,” he tells his mother.

Encouraging the boys to join the conversation, Thomas asks them what they like to do at the playground.

“Play!” they say in unison.

“What do you like to play on?” Thomas asks.

“Stuff!” Devyn yells enthusiastically.

2:20 p.m. Grandin Chalcroft, 22, and Ray Knight, 23, take a break from the extreme park and sit in the shade under the covered picnic area. The two friends like to come when they’re not working or attending school, they said.

“I come a lot when I’ve got days off,” Chalcroft said. “It’s a fun place to hang out and meet up with friends and do whatever you decide to do.”

Both said they enjoy riding BMX bikes, although Chalcroft said he also likes doing tricks on his skateboard.

Knight, who attends Clark College and is working on a machining degree, said one day he wants to build custom BMX bikes.

“I’ve already built some of my own parts,” Knight said, using his foot to point to some metal attachments on his bike frame.

2:50 p.m. The playground grows loud with the sounds of about seven toddlers. High school students start to trickle in with their skateboards and BMX bikes, eager for turns at the extreme park.

3:15 p.m. Viktoriya Pankratova, 16, and Shaena Fischer, 18, giggle, take pictures of each other and talk in American Sign Language while relaxing by a ditch near the off-leash park. The two Evergreen High School students, who are hard of hearing and deaf, respectively, say they love the open air at the park — and the view of the young skater boys.

“This is the second day we came here in a row to take pictures and just to talk,” Pankratova said.

“She likes that it’s just so peaceful,” she added, translating for Fischer. “And I like that there are some cute guys here.”

3:30 p.m. About eight young men, ages ranging from teens to early 20s, cluster by the wall in the covered picnic area.

As Pankratova and Fischer pass by, one of them announces that he thinks they’re “cute.”

3:40 p.m. Rob Buell, 43, watches as his sons, Owen, 5, and Cooper, 3, roll their small bikes up and down the grass-lined ditch near the off-leash park.

“They like to go up and watch the big boys at the skate park,” Buell said. “I’m waiting for these guys to get old enough to join them.”

Still, Owen might be a little too precocious when it comes to wheeled vehicles.

“He asked for a motorcycle for his birthday this year,” Buell said with a laugh.

4:10 p.m. Steven Gonzales, 14, and his grandfather Michael Gonzales, 60, are the first visitors of the day to the park’s half-court basketball hoops.

“I like to shoot hoops here with my grandpa,” Steven Gonzales said. “When I come here usually there’s never anybody here. I wish there were more people so we could do some three-on-three stuff.”

4:25 p.m. A group of three boys toss a football near the playground. The extreme park has grown crowded, with at least 25 people, mostly boys and young men, waiting to take turns on the asphalt.

5 p.m. Charlotte Williams heads to the shade of the covered picnic area, only recently vacated by the skaters, with plans for some quiet reading. Her two junior high school-aged grandchildren are taking turns on their bikes at the extreme park.

“My grandkids sure love it here,” Williams said. “There are a lot of options, with the playground and the skate park. If I could trust my dog off-leash I’d bring him here, too. But this place also has wonderful trails for leashed dogs.”

5:15 p.m. Charlotte Williams’ quiet reading is interrupted when her grandson and granddaughter decide to make her a referee in an argument.

5:25 p.m. The sound of trucks from a neighboring industrial business boom through the evening air. Down the paved pathways, three pre-teen boys gather near a grate in the grassy ditch.

“Guys come here there’s a mouse by the sewer pipe,” one yells. “I’m gonna try to catch it.”

5:30 p.m. At the park’s field to the far east, which has been deserted all day, two children’s soccer teams line up and begin to practice.

The younger group, which appear to be around age 4 and up, stand with their feet on their balls, looking up at their coach.

“Listen. Listen. Listen,” he tells them emphatically.

6 p.m. As the sun gets low in the sky, one young girl decides she doesn’t want to leave the playground.

“I could stay here forever,” she announces to the world.

6:45 p.m. April Elder and her 3-year-old dog, Frodo, stroll down the pathway to the basketball court, where her grandchildren have been shooting a few hoops.

“I pick them up and bring them to parks around here in the evening, usually,” Elder said. “It gives me some prime time with them. We go to all the parks in this area. I love being in the park, especially when it cools off and gets quiet like this.”

Pacific Community Park

7 p.m. Dog walkers still trickle in to the off-leash park, even though the park is close to its dusk closing time. BMX bikers and skateboarders try to get their last few tricks in before heading home for the evening.