Alderbrook Park goes public

Private park discovers it has long been one of county’s best-kept secrets

By Troy Brynelson, Columbian staff writer

Published:

 

If You Go

• What: Alderbrook Park.

Where: 24414 N.E. Westerholm Road, Brush Prairie.

When: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays.

Cost: Free for ages 3 and under, $6 for ages 4 to 14, $10 for ages 15 and up.

Information: 360-882-4444 or www.alderbrookparkevents.com

Even though the sun’s playing hokey-pokey in our corner of the country lately, a private park in eastern Clark County is trying to position itself as a summer retreat.

Alderbrook Park, the 63-acre private park at the eastern edge of Clark County, offers miles of trails, a lake and a swimming pool. Its website lists activities from pedal boats to kickball to a disc golf course. But the decades-old business is still a surprise to many.

“Every day, we get people coming here and saying ‘I’ve never heard of this place’ and ‘I’ve never been here before,'” said event specialist Chris Bryden.

Alderbrook Park, at 24414 N.E. Westerholm Road, first opened in the 1960s. Visitors especially liked to talk about its water fountains that flow pink lemonade. Until recently, though, the park had rarely been open to the public.

According to The Columbian archives, previous owner Peter Hessler said he opened it to the public when he saw the state-owned parks in the Columbia River Gorge planned to charge for vehicle parking.

It seemed to be a shrewd idea. Parks are increasingly popular. Visits to the U.S. national parks broke attendance records for the third straight year last year, according to the National Park Service.

A new owner, whose name Bryden declined to disclose, bought the park from the Hesslers in 2009 when it was nearly foreclosed. Bryden was brought on at the beginning of 2015 to help turn it around.

Bryden, whose work history includes stints in the hospitality industry and in sales with the construction giant Caterpillar, said the park aims to become a touchstone for local families.

“It gives all the local families a place to go. It’s not so much about the revenue as much as it gives those people a place to go,” Bryden said. The park has refurbished old buildings and opened an in-park cafe since his arrival.

Bill Goritski, whose off-road cycling event Zaaldercross has been held at Alderbrook Park the last four years, said it’s been “a really good experience” there.

“It’s been a very good place to be involved with,” he said. “It’s kind of a unique spot in that it’s a private park that’s so nice, yet the public still has access to.”

The park periodically was open to the public for years beforehand, but it wasn’t very successful, he said. Better marketing and word of mouth has gotten attendance up the past few years. Its main business has come from private events held on the weekends, including birthday parties, weddings and company picnics.

“We are booked solid for all of our corporate event weekends, and we’re getting tons of calls on our public days,” Bryden said, though the park’s season will still depend on the weather.

“We are an outdoor pavilion, so it’s a bit harder go swimming in December,” he added.

Alderbrook Park’s employment seesaws between 20 and 100 people, depending on how busy the season is. The park has a capacity of about 5,000 guests.

The season officially lasts from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The park is open to the public 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and on holidays.