WASHOUGAL — Graham Fine scaled the beast’s back and crouched on its head.
“I’m king of the yeti,” he said, surveying the crowd below him.
Fine, 5, attends Little Lamb Preschool in Washougal, and his school doesn’t have a playground. If it did, he’d want it to have something similar to the new natural play area at the Washougal Waterfront Park, 56 S. First St.
The play area officially opened on Friday, and on a sunny Monday afternoon, it was already popular with local families looking to get outside before this week’s anticipated heat wave.
The highlight of the new park for many is the roughly 9-foot tall Sasquatch kneeling down in the center of the area. The Port of Camas-Washougal sought names from the public for the statue and turned over a few favorites to port commissioners, who decided on Eegah. The port worked with Portland-based landscape architecture firm GreenWorks on the park and Sasquatch statue.
The most daring of park visitors can get to the top of Eegah by walking up a hill onto a rock and using a climbing rope to reach his shoulders.
“Kids always seem to find a way to jump on logs or climb something,” said Alicia Fine, Graham’s mother. “It’s fun to have a place they can do that.”
There are a few Sasquatch symbols along the Washougal Waterfront Park walking path pointing the direction of the natural play area, which overlooks the Columbia River. Climbing Eegah isn’t all the park has to offer. There are climbing logs throughout, an area where a slide will be installed once it’s delivered and a few outdoor musical instruments to play. There is a xylophone and a few percussion instruments made to look like part of the natural landscape.
“My favorite part was the instruments,” Annie Dodge, 6, of Washougal, said. She said it reminded her of the Columbia Tech Center Park in Vancouver, her favorite in the area.
She was there with her three siblings and their mother, Allison Dodge.
“It’s awesome to have a natural-based playground in town,” she said. “We go to parks all over the place. Around here, we like the (Hartwood Park) Red Barn Playground and taking them to Steigerwald (Lake Wildlife Refuge).”
The rock to climb up Eegah is also built into local history. It was unearthed during the state Highway 14 project and put aside at the waterfront. Eventually, port officials learned it made its way to Washougal during the ancient Missoula Floods. There is a board with information about the floods, along with another informational board on different animal tracks to look for.
Kim Noah, director of operations for the port, said some geologists from a nearby college studied the rock and determined it was an “erratic” and not something typically found in the area, although they weren’t sure where exactly it came from. That’s where port officials came up with the rock’s name, Erric the Erratic.
The natural play area was pushed back about a year due to rising construction costs, Noah said. It was originally scheduled to open summer 2018. With the extra year, the port was able to get a lower bid for construction and receive $103,000 in the 2019-2021 state capital budget. The total project cost a little more than $300,000, Noah said.
“It’s gratifying to do projects for the community like this,” Noah said. “To see everyone happy with it is nice.”