What's Up With That? Japanese gate marks park’s once-and-future pond

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I would like to know the history of the Japanese “pagoda” (for the lack of a better term) that sits in Pleasant Valley Park. It has been there for the entire 17 years that I have lived in the area, and there used to be a pond underneath with swans in it. Today, the pond is dry and the swans are long gone, but the structure remains. None of our neighbors really knows how this structure came to be.

—Dale Hillman, Pleasant Valley

Dale, here’s the scoop on what’s actually a Japanese-style gate, called a torii. Most folks won’t have noticed it because it’s tucked far down in the brushy recesses of 40-acre Pleasant Valley Park, not the most accessible place to begin with.

The following information comes courtesy of Clark County Parks Superintendent Bill Bjerke and spokeswoman Jilayne Jordan.

Clark County bought the majority of the land that is now Pleasant Valley Community Park in 1989, and that parcel came with a pond and Japanese garden a previous owner had built.

The wooden torii was a feature in that garden, “with a brass bell hanging from it, a nice covered shelter, beautiful landscaping and an impressive cistern irrigation system. In addition to the swans the writer mentioned, it’s interesting to note that the pond also used to serve as a nursery for lots of juvenile fish.

“Sadly, the brass bell was stolen … not long after the property became a public park, but the worst was yet to come. In 1996, the flood put this entire area of the park under six feet of water because of its proximity to Salmon Creek. When the water receded, the pond had been completely filled in with silt, the beautiful landscaping was destroyed and the covered shelter had floated away.” Only the torii survived.

The county doesn’t plan to remove the torii “unless it deteriorates to the point where it becomes a danger or nuisance.”

But there are plans afoot to change the landscape again. “In August, the Lower Columbia Fish Enhancement Group began work on a fish habitat enhancement and stream restoration project where the pond used to be. As part of this project, they will rebuild the pond with the goal of once again (providing) rearing habitat for young fish. They will also add a series of plank weirs to the tributary to improve fish passage and create spawning areas. This project is being paid for by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Salmon Recovery Funding Board.

“In November, Clark County Environmental Services will invite volunteers to help plant hundreds of trees and shrubs in this same area to help improve the riparian habitat along Salmon Creek and its tributary.”

— Scott Hewitt

Got a question about your neighborhood? We’ll get it answered. Send “What’s Up With That?” questions to neighbors@columbian.com.