As of this writing the whole district is still under development but the Vancouver Waterfront Park itself is done. The park has a west and east section and with big attraction features of the Grant St. Pier and the Columbia River Watershed Fountain in the middle. The park is tying in with new restaurants and soon new hotels and of course the whole river experience. It also connects in with other attraction near by like Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, the Vancouver Land Bridge, the Remembrance Wall and Esther Short Park.
Staying with the old saying “ picture is worth a thousand words” below I will visual step you through what you can expect to see at the new park.
The New Park and Development
Unlike Portland’s Waterfront Park that evolved over many years the Vancouver Waterfront Park is newly designed to incorporate all that has been learn from water front development parks. The design packs a lot into 7.1 acres and harmonizes with the commercial redevelopment of the area. One point to be aware of when visiting is that this is in an urban setting. By this I mean it is noisy. There is new construction going on, the freeway is just up stream, it is right on the flight path for two airports and surround by industry. It is visual beautiful but when the F-15 screaming eagles take off you will need to pause your conversation.
The East side of the Vancouver Waterfront Park is set up as the main entrance with a neat new sign and a big stair case coming down from the street. The path then splits into and upper and lower walkway with a large lawn area in between. The upper path passes by a basalt rock seating area and on to the center area. You can see how this seating will allow for future performing art events. The lower pathway follows the edge of the river. You will find benches along this route to sit and watch the river. There is also a point where you can venture down some stone steps that will lead to you to the rock embankment and on to the river. Both of these paths will meet again at the Columbia River Water Feature.
Columbia River Water Feature
The water feature or fountain found in the center section of the park is meant for viewing, playing in the water and educational. It represents the watershed of Columbia River that the fountain sits next to. With this stylized version of the Columbia River the water start its journey from a 16 foot wide by 12 foot tall black stone monolith. One side of this piece has a bas-relief bronze map of the Columbia River watershed and information about the Columbia River. The other side has an engraved topographic map of the headwaters of the Columbia River. Water flows from the top of this feature and over it to begin its 180 foot journey to a pool (ocean) at the end. The course it flows over is rippled so to give the effect of going over rapids. It also should give good footing for anyone playing in the water. On each side of this river are granite blocks engraved with fact about the tributaries that enter the Columbia River and quotes from various authors. Out of these stacks of flat rock flows linear streams of water that join the main body of water flowing from the Headwaters monolith. These stream will increase in flow then die down as other streams increase their flow. The water course ends at a pool and the hidden circulation pump that keeps this river flowing. The water is chlorinated to keep it safe for playing in.
Grant St. Pier
The Grant St. Pier is built to symbolize the early sailing ships that made Vancouver, Washington possible. The 75 foot tall steal mast holds the bow of the ship that is a steal concrete structure that juts 90 feet out over the Columbia River. Steal structural cable that hold it all together replace the twisted ropes of the early sailing vessels. Anchors for the cables have engraved information on them about the creation of the pier and of a sailing ship that came up the Columbia River. You walk out on what looks like teak decking, a favorite for sail boats. The end of the pier affords you a view up and down the Columbia River and back over the length of the park. The Grant St. Pier offers a gathering place and has already become a popular spot for having a wedding.
On the West side of the park the walkway divides again. The upper path will eventually run along new development that is still being planned. The lower walkway follows the river. On this path you will find old paper mill artifacts and a bit of history about this area. Further down you will come to the playground with climbing rope feature, stone stylizes salmon to climb on and a big sandbox to play in. Along the whole route there are places to sit and watch the river and boats and ships that go by. Both paths will join again at the Columbia River Overlook.
The east side of the park the walkway finishes off at loop through the picnic area. Here you find a number of picnic tables, drinking fountain and a lawn area to play on. There are of course more places to sit and watch the river. This is now where the five mile long Columbia River Renaissance Trail ends.