Couple lead volunteer effort to complete path at park

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

Published:

 
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Grace Teigen and Gene Wigglesworth have an eye for improving the landscape around the First Place neighborhood in Northeast Vancouver.

The married couple, who are chairwoman and vice chairman of the First Place Park Improvement Committee, have worked on grants to plant trees and make improvements for the past several years.

And when they noticed that First Place Park's path needed to extend around the park, rather than just two-thirds of the way, the pair went into action.

"We already had some pathways in the park that are asphalt, but because of city cutbacks, we decided to try to get a gravel path approved," Wigglesworth said. "We raised money and got equipment donations, and the whole neighborhood really came together."

The park switched ownership from Clark County to the city of Vancouver in the early 1990s before it was completed. Residents have worked together over the years to add new improvements to it, Teigen said.

"When the city took it over, it had almost nothing in it," Teigen said. "Since then, we've planted more than 50 trees and 144 shrubs, and we have a group that waters them weekly. There was a grassy area with no path that handicapped people couldn't go, so we wanted to make this path in part to make it handicapped-accessible."

The group finished the path, part of the park's master plan, on Aug. 18.

The effort included $1,500 in donations from residents, an $1,100 matching grant from the Vancouver Watershed Alliance and help from Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation and First Place Neighborhood Association board.

It also included work by 41 volunteers and community businesses. Tapani Underground cut the path and removed sod for $1,500. Such a job would have normally cost $4,000. The company also donated 30 cubic yards of crushed concrete for the trail base.

"The businesspeople in this community really supported us tremendously," Teigen said. "They gave us a lot of help."

Star Rentals donated use of a Bobcat to move path-building materials. And Parkrose Hardware donated use of two Vibra Tampers used to make the path firm and handicapped-accessible.

"We had wonderful cooperation with the city, with the Watershed Alliance and even with the weather," said Lynda Harriman, chairwoman of the neighborhood association. "I was so glad when I saw it was overcast on Saturday morning and not 100 degrees."

The 3-acre park, at the corner of Northeast 16th St. and 151st Ave, has play equipment, picnic tables and an open lawn area surrounded by trees. Residents often use it to exercise, and Wigglesworth said he hopes to measure the new path and add a sign so people can use it as part of their exercise routines.

"I saw a woman out there using one of the picnic tables as a stair stepper the other day," said Wigglesworth, 69. "Lots of people use the park to get a workout."

After the planning stages, the project ended up taking three days of volunteer work. Tapani Underground cut the path one day, volunteers packed 300 feet of fabric material along the path bottom on the second day, and on the final day they laid all the fine crushed material on the path top and tamped it down.

"Men and women, everybody was pitching in," Wigglesworth said. "Some of the folks that couldn't do hard labor made us peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and refreshments."

A group of students from Evergreen High School also turned out to help with the effort. The kids don't live in the neighborhood, but they do get school credit for their efforts, Harriman said.

"They're honor students," she said. "They worked really well together and they stayed to the bitter end. We were glad to have them."

Harriman, who's major job was raking the gravel after it was installed in the path, said she was thrilled to see so many of her neighbors and friends step up to help.

"It was really just a wonderful cooperative effort," Harriman said. "It's a great neighborhood to be chair of. They make me look good."