Must see Vancouver-Clark parks, trails and rec centers

Those who love outdoors, activities have many options

By Andrea Damewood, Columbian staff writer




For more information on life in Clark County, visit

Must-See Parks

• Moulton/Lucia Falls

• Esther Short Park

• Waterfront Trail

• Lewisville Park

• Burnt Bridge Creek Trail

• Firstenburg Community Center

• Information:

Tennis anyone? Or how about hiking, canoeing, horseback riding, snowshoeing, dog walking, gardening or sightseeing?

No matter what you’re into, the Vancouver-Clark Parks & Recreation Department is convinced that its trails, recreation centers and 7,400 acres of parks have something for everyone.

The district’s diverse offerings go from a breathtaking 2.2-mile hike in north Clark County between Moulton and Lucia falls to playgrounds, concerts in downtown Vancouver’s historic Esther Short Park, and indoor rock climbing and waterslides at Firstenburg Community Center, which opened in 2006 in east Vancouver.

But times are growing leaner for Vancouver-Clark Parks & Recreation; budget woes at both the city and county level mean maintenance cutbacks and no current plans for new park development within Vancouver city limits. For the last two summers, lifeguards have also been absent from the popular swimming spot at Klineline Pond.

Yet volunteers are stepping up to fill gaps, with a local company organizing a makeover for the bandstand at Esther Short Park in November, and a volunteer coordinator working to place those willing to help.

And plans are under way to build an 8-acre park along the Columbia River, part of the planned development of the former industrial site into a bustling neighborhood of offices, condos, retail and restaurants. The development also plans to extend frequently used Waterfront Trail along the length of the 32-acre site.

In urban areas of unincorporated Clark County, voters gave the nod to the creation of a Greater Clark Parks District in 2005, which designates property tax money to fund maintenance and operations for 30 new neighborhood parks, five new community parks, seven miles of new walking trails and additional sports fields. A funding shortage has put the construction of nine of those parks on hold. Still, Clark County has built 26 of the program’s 35 parks, along with 26 of its 41 sports fields.

Those parks join dozens of other options for outdoor and indoor activity.

The use of the 65 miles of Vancouver-Clark pedestrian and bicycle-only trails has gone up by 50 percent in one year, according to a user study conducted by Vancouver-Clark Parks & Recreation Trail Program volunteers in September. Among the most popular greenways are the Waterfront, Frenchman’s Bar, Salmon Creek and Burnt Bridge Creek.

In the city, administrators have called the Vancouver Tennis and Racquetball Center’s nine indoor tennis courts, two recently remodeled racquetball courts and four lit outdoor tennis courts “a hidden gem.” Senior citizen dances at Luepke Community Center are also huge draws.

Clark County’s oldest and most visited park lies near Battle Ground. Lewisville Park, built as part of the Works Progress Administration program in the 1930s, features 154 acres of forest and meadows bordering the East Fork of the Lewis River, and a three-mile trail system meandering throughout the park.

Vancouver has also drawn national attention as a skater’s paradise, with the 10,000-square-foot BMX and skateboarding park in east Vancouver’s Pacific Community Park as its crown jewel.