It’s a short ride of one-half mile — and a long wait of several decades — from the western entrance to Fairgrounds Community Park to the Clark County Fairgrounds themselves.
“It is really exciting to see this connection coming in here. People have had this vision for I don’t know how long — 20, 30 years,” said Norm Welsh of the Clark County Executive Horse Council.
A shared equestrian-pedestrian trail along the north side of Fairgrounds Community Park, complete with a connection linking the park to the fairgrounds, has long been part of the approved master plan for the area. That plan was finalized in 2005, and it ran smack into environmental and monetary realities that probably will prevent all of it from ever being fully built out. While a first phase was completed in 2009, bringing walking trails, sports courts, benches, a playground and more to 30 acres on the east side of the park, the elaborate sports complex envisioned for the west side seems impossible, given the landscape’s steep slopes and federally protected wetlands.
What’s moving ahead now are the lowest-impact and least costly amenities — trails. In this time of crunched budgets, Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation has been pleased to enlist a host of community volunteers and donated resources to start work on the shared pathway along the northern border of the park. From there it bends to the north, meanders through a copse of trees and emerges on the southern edge of the fairgrounds. (It won’t connect with those 30 developed acres to the east, where horses are not allowed).
“This is part of a much bigger trail vision to connect our regional parks. It’s an incremental closing of one gap in the system,” said Lisa Goorjian, a landscape architect with Vancouver-Clark parks. In the long run, Goorjian said, this trail will run all the way from the Columbia River on the west to the Mount Vista area, near the campus of Washington State University Vancouver, on the east. That connection will go through Whipple Creek Park and Fairgrounds Community Park and will link to the Fairgrounds themselves.