Community celebrates Ashford County Park opening

After decades of work, Pierce County residents enjoyed the opening of their newest park on Saturday, a 36-acre recreation area in Ashford.

Ashford County Park features a playground, a paved trail through the woods, restrooms and parking. The new park is located at 29700 State Route 706 East.

“What began as a wish by Ashford residents for a safe place to walk and enjoy with their children will become more than we could ever imagine today,” said Pierce County Council Chairman Roger Bush, whose District 3 includes the Ashford area. “The park, trails and eventual mountaineering museum will be a stopover for generations of Mount Rainier visitors and a source of pride for all of Pierce County.”

County Executive Pat McCarthy hailed the local residents and the nonprofit group Friends of the Upper Nisqually for sticking with their dream.

“I am thrilled to celebrate this achievement with the Ashford, Elbe and Nisqually communities. This park could rightfully have been named ‘Perseverance Park’ because local citizens refused to give up on a good idea,” Executive McCarthy said. “On a personal level, my family has had a cabin at the base of Mount Rainier for 24 years, and we truly believe this part of Pierce County is like a sliver of heaven.”

The site dates back to the Auburn Coal and Coke Company in the early 1900s when coal was mined in the area and shipped by rail to the coking plant in Auburn. Some 20 years ago, local activists Rick Adams, Brad Moore, Paul Nerge and Rich Mulholland persuaded the Champion International Paper Company to donate 29 acres to Pierce County for park purposes. Since then, additional land has been acquired and the first phase of improvements have been constructed.

The first phase cost about $3.4 million, most of which is funded by a real estate excise tax dedicated to parks. Future phases include an open lawn area, picnic facilities, an amphitheater, a cultural center and a mountaineering museum.

Other participants in Saturday’s dedication ceremony included county Parks and Recreation Director Kathy Kravit-Smith, Rick Adams of Friends of the Upper Nisqually, state Rep. Tom Campbell, state Sen. Randi Becker, Willie Frank Jr. of the Nisqually Tribal Council, Mount Rainier National Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga, Dan Sutich of the Pierce County Parks and Recreation Citizens Advisory Board and Daffodil Princess Kaitlynn Barratt of Eatonville High School.

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