Duck boat takes to water at Fall Fest

About 500 people go for ride in World War II-era boat at weekend event in Woodland

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor

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photoJeff Wilson Donated DUKW boat rides during the festival to raise money for Scott Hill Park & Sports Complex

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A history of the 31-foot DUKW boat

Scott Hill Park & Sports Complex

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The population of Woodland was 5,512 as of July 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

WOODLAND — “We’re going to do a beach assault,” declared Jeff Wilson from his World War II duck boat.

However, his crew of 15 looked unprepared for any battle.

Duck boat rides were popular Sunday during the Lewis River Fall Fest at Horseshoe Lake Park in Woodland. The event was a fundraiser for the Scott Hill Park & Sports Complex, a 40-acre property that supporters are hoping to develop.

“That’s very neat,” said Marilyn Van Horn of Woodland after her 20-minute duck boat ride on Horseshoe Lake. “It’s something you never get to do.”

She and husband Neil moved to Woodland four years ago from Portland’s Mount Tabor neighborhood.

“We are happy we moved here. We hate to go into Portland,” she said.

Built in 1945 for the war effort, this DUKW (known as duck) is 31 feet long, 8 feet wide and amphibious.

“What you have is a 16,000-pound monster,” said Wilson, who owns the duck boat and donated proceeds from the $5-a-person rides.

He said perhaps 500 people took rides over the weekend. His company TDI, a Longview portable toilet firm, also does business in Woodland.

Wilson said the duck has 140 horsepower, can go 55 mph on land and 7 mph in the water, and, “I can run about eight hours on 15 gallons of gasoline.

“It’s a true amphibian.” Wilson said. “It’s all-wheel drive. It has a propeller.”

He said some passengers “are apprehensive. It’s not a natural feel to take a perfectly good vehicle and drive it into the water.”

Wilson said riding in the duck gives people a feeling for history.

“The ducks were built primarily by women. These were built in Dearborn, Mich. … It’s not just a museum piece,” he said of the rig. “People can touch it. They can feel it.”

He bought the duck eight years ago for $2,000 when it needed to be completely rebuilt. He said now it might be worth $100,000.

“That thing is really cool,” said Dave Petersen, 47, gazing from the shore toward the DUKW. He lives with his family on Woodland’s Cardai Hill.

Of his town, the airline pilot said, “I love it. Everybody’s friendly. Schools are great. Great place to raise kids.”

The duck was not the only war vehicle on display at the Lewis River Fall Fest.

Woodland’s Dennis Ripp had three vehicles to show off. He is president of the Military Vehicle Collectors Club of Oregon. On display were a 1945 Ford Army Jeep, a 1951 CJ3A Navy Jeep and a 1944 M8 Ford armored car.

Ripp grew up in Woodland and is the city’s public works senior lead man.

He said Woodland is a great place to live.

“We’ve got a new (high) school coming in. You’ve got a lake right here in town,” and Woodland is close to Portland and lots of recreational activities, he said.

Woodland’s Heather Mansy came up with the fall fest idea. She is on the parks committee of the Woodland Rotary Club. She said Woodland is big enough for another annual celebration.

Mansy said proceeds go to a fund for the park and sports field, but that it will take several million dollars to develop. She did not yet know how much money the weekend event raised.

Art and Diane Brandenburg, former Californians who live in Clark County’s Mount Vista neighborhood, said they enjoyed the festival and also come to Woodland for the tulip and lilac festivals.

Said Art, “Woodland’s kind of like an old Mayberry town,” alluding to the town on “The Andy Griffith Show.”