When Lineham moved back to Vancouver, he was surprised at what he found.
“I realized my hometown had totally changed,” he said. “I needed to reacquaint myself with my town.”
Lineham started going on the historical walking tours sponsored by the museum and hosted by Richardson, whose chatty, personal approach inspired him to think up his own walking project: exploring the whole length of Mill Plain and educating himself about both history and the current scene as he went.
Always a personal journal keeper, Lineham also wanted to try writing for others. “I wanted to share what I discovered,” he said.
Lineham accomplished his first crosstown walk in 2011. He strolled the boulevard in segments, starting on the west near the Port of Vancouver and eventually finishing at 192nd Avenue, near Shahala Middle School and Fisher Basin Park.
“Each section offered me insights about the community, its people, businesses, transportation systems, values, cultures, worship centers, and sometimes intriguing secrets, too,” he writes.
During his first-edition walk, Lineham observed a line of cars backed up at the Mill Plain onramp, waiting out an Interstate 5 Bridge lift.
“I wondered how many combined precious human hours and how much precious fuel was wasted each day as hundreds of vehicles waited,” he wrote in the 2012 edition.
“Ten years later,” says his 2022 edition, “debate still rages over the fate of the rusting interstate bridge.”
How many Vancouver residents remember the Memory Pool that once occupied the corner of Fort Vancouver Way?
“I can still remember the dingy, steamy locker rooms,” Lineham writes of the Central Park neighborhood landmark, which eventually burned and the remnants demolished.
Lineham traces the rise and fall of country schoolhouses along the once-rural road. And he visits a resident named James, who has lived across the street from PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center for six decades, witnessing the hospital’s growth — and gradual takeover of his neighborhood.
Bit of everything
While Mill Plain east of Interstate 205 seems young today, Lineham stresses that this is where the original Hudson’s Bay Company “established and operated its vast 1,000-acre Mill Plain farm in the early 1840s.”
The farm stretched from today’s 104th Avenue to 164th, but nothing remains of it. The same goes for Evergreen Field, a privately owned airport on the north side of the street, which closed in 2006.
“Nothing from the past can be seen on this part of the long, urbanized thoroughfare these days,” Lineham writes. “Today the primary theme for the area where agriculture once flourished is urban sprawl and big box stores.”
But Lineham can’t bring himself to criticize. “I’m a sucker for new streets, sidewalks, curbs and gutters … so I quickly put aside my existential grief over the loss of a once-beautiful area in the county,” he writes. “That is progress, I suppose.”
Mill Plain Boulevard “is not known for its beauty or aesthetics,” Lineham said. “It doesn’t have a lot of charm. But it sure has a whole lot of stories. There is a very rich culture here. We’ve got a little bit of everything.”