Vancouver’s long-awaited waterfront park will open Saturday, Sept. 29, city officials confirmed Friday.
The slice of the Columbia River shoreline has been publicly off-limits for more than a century.
The site, which consists of a 7.3-acre park and the Grant Street Pier, will be celebrated with a grand opening from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Live entertainment, kids activities and guest speakers will mark its debut, according to a news release.
“The new waterfront park is an exceptional project and we are very excited to open it up for the public,” Julie Hannon, director of parks and recreation, said in a statement. “This project reconnects downtown Vancouver with the Columbia River waterfront — access that has been blocked for over 100 years.”
City officials said they expected to make the opening day announcement next week, but a staffer inadvertently posted the event to Facebook on Thursday. But announcing a few days early may be a drop in the river compared to the wait to get the park open.
Indeed, the last time the public could set foot there was 113 years ago.
A sawmill occupied the property beginning in 1905, and it eventually became a paper mill. Boise Cascade bought the mill in 1962, running papermaking operations until 1996. A decade would pass before Boise Cascade sold its 32 acres to a consortium of private developers.
Visions of a riverfront district where people could work, eat and play did not really begin to become a reality until summer 2016, when the city and Gramor Development, the Tualatin, Ore.-based firm leading the revival, broke ground.
The city will have spent between $17 million and $20 million by the time it cuts the ribbon on the park. Besides the 90-foot pier jutting over the river, the park will boast trail sections and large basalt steps that carve out a section of amphitheater-style seating. There will also be an urban beach, the city said, although it won’t offer any access to the swift-flowing water.
The park is also the first entity with a firm opening date. Gramor told The Columbian in June that it does not want to announce opening dates for its buildings after watching its earlier dates — in June, July and August — slip. Seven buildings are currently under construction, including two that will be home to eating and drinking establishments.
An expansive water feature, including a 12-by-16-foot monolith and abstract depictions of the Columbia Basin, is also expected to open late this fall.