It was a mystery.
I was perusing the internet, trying to find additional parks in our area, when I ran across the name “Laurel Beach Park”. I found it on an old testing site for Columbia County Parks. The site said:
Laurel Beach is a day-use facility featuring access to one of the Columbia River’s many fishing spots, in addition to offering outstanding bird viewing. Gate opens one hour before sunrise, and closes one hour after sunset.
That webpage gave the directions as Laurel Beach Road off of Laurelwood Road. But I looked on Google Maps and I didn’t see any park marked there. The one place the park did show up was on Oregon Hometown Locator. I checked the property listings and the land ownership continued to be listed as Laurel Beach County Park. So what gives? I decided to follow the map and find out.
Sophia hopped into the carseat and the two of us headed to Rainier. It wasn’t easy to follow the instructions – the road wasn’t marked with the same name as on the map, and then it became apparent there was no road at all! According to the sign, the park is closed.
I didn’t want to come all that way and not give Sophia a park experience, so we headed over to Rainier Riverfront Park as a backup plan. It’s a pretty city park on the river with the reclaimed Fox Creek running down one side of it. Due to cold and drizzly weather, we had almost the whole park to ourselves.
I was impressed by the helpful signs next to the creek, explaining the restoration effort and giving information on local plant and animal life.
I didn’t expect to see much considering the weather, so I was surprised when a couple of snakes appeared on the rocks bordering the creek. Apparently the slope shielded them from the wind and there was just enough sunshine to warm their bodies. I let Sophia hold one especially pretty juvenile Northwestern Garter Snake.
After we got home I wrote to Columbia County’s parks and facilities director to find out what was going on with Laurel Beach Park. He replied that access to Laurel Beach crossed the railroad and was dangerous/difficult. As a result the park was closed for the time being and it has been proposed that the park be removed from the Columbia County Parks list. What will happen to that piece of property, which still has nice birdwatching and wildlife habitat? That’s something we should pay attention to going forward.
It would have been nice to get to enjoy Laurel Beach, but at least we got something out of the day. 🙂
Rainier Riverfront Park at a glance
What: picnic, river, walking, disc golf
Where: In downtown Rainier, turn north off of Highway 30 onto Veterans Way, which will lead you directly to the park on A Street.
Hiking: A short walking trail around the park
Notable Wildlife: osprey, bald eagles, waterfowl, songbirds
Property status: City of Rainier
Website: Rainier Riverfront Park