Friday, July 08, 2011

Rippling Waters Park expedition

Rippling Waters Park


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Today's thrilling adventure takes us out to little-known Rippling Waters Park along Gales Creek in western Washington County. Those of you who are, inexplicably, long-time readers might remember me mentioning this place twice before; for the rest of you, a brief recap. Washington County doesn't have an extensive county park system; there's Hagg Lake south of Forest Grove, little Metzger Park near the Washington Square Mall, and this place, which almost nobody has ever heard of. It seems that the county itself forgot about the place for several decades, and when they finally realized they owned it, they promptly put up the big scary No Trespassing sign you see here. There wasn't (and still isn't) money in the budget to operate it on an official basis, and they can't ignore people using it on a less than official basis because then someone would inevitably get hurt and sue for big bucks. The only approved visitors seem to be occasional groups of volunteers, pulling up invasive plants and taking water quality samples and so forth. And, unofficially, it seems the place has always been a traditional local fishing and swimming hole.

Rippling Waters Park

So you might have noticed I didn't get very far on this so-called expedition. I didn't even pass the No Trespassing sign, since I wasn't sure how strictly that was enforced. I wasn't in the mood to get tasered that day, or to get tasered later after posting photos on the net, or for that matter to get sued after someone else saw the photos on the net, went to the park, and got tasered. So there's that. I mean, if I thought there was something really amazing I needed to see past the sign I would've considered it. But some underbrush and a creek? Nah.

Also, I was on my way back from a quick day trip to the coast (including a visit to Munson Creek Falls), and I was running a bit behind schedule (and about to get stuck in Portland weekday rush hour, as it turns out), so even if there was an unexplored Egyptian tomb just up the trail I still might have left it for another day.

Rippling Waters Park

The point (at least this time around) was simply to find the place and take a token photo or two so I could reasonably do a post about it. I was intrigued by the park, or at least the idea of the park, when I read those 1999 Oregonian stories about the place. I was fascinated that a chunk of land this size, ostensibly a public park, could simply fall off the county's radar and be forgotten for decades. It's fair to say that, in a roundabout sort of way, this eventually led to this humble blog's ongoing park project, for good or ill.

Rippling Waters Park

I checked the Oregonian historical database for earlier mentions of the park, and there are a few starting back in the 1920s. The articles suggest that the park had already been around for a while when it first appeared in the Oregonian. My guess is the Portland paper started mentioning the place around the time its readers started buying cars and it became possible to visit the park on a day trip from the city. As a caveat, I'm not absolutely certain these early mentions are about today's Rippling Waters Park. The park in those days seems to have been privately owned, and offered swimming and group picnic facilities (numerous mentions of the place were in relation to company picnics, school reunions, etc. being held there), and even overnight cabins. I realize I didn't venture very far into the park, but I didn't see any of that stuff, or any obvious evidence it had once existed. So maybe it was the same park (or a portion of it) and nature's thoroughly claimed it back over the last century, or maybe it was another place by the same name in the same general vicinity. I can't rule that out since I ran across quite a few midcentury real estate listings advertising that they were in the Rippling Waters area. In any case, that early period came to an end in the 1940s. This notice appeared in the July 13, 1941 Oregonian:

RIPPLING WATERS PARK -- Famous park on Gales Creek, Wilson River road, 16 a. [acres?] picnic, swim, cabins. Must be sold. Take Portland or sub. home as part. LYMAN ROSS, ALOHA OR Excl. agent

Rippling Waters Park

Additional sale notices appeared over the next couple of years, and then the park basically dropped off the Oregonian's radar until 1985, at which point it was a poorly-maintained county park. Neighbors complained to the county about unruly teen parties (which, given the year, could easily have included classmates of mine) and even occasional gunfire, and the county briefly considered what to do about the place. A couple of typical stories from that era:

Rippling Waters Park

I didn't go through and read all of the 1985 stories, since it's quite obvious that if they made any grand plans for the park, they didn't follow through on them. Chances are they punted on the idea when they realized it might cost money. The big scary Keep Out signs may have come later, during the even briefer 1999 handwringing episode about the park.

So I realize there are pretty big gaps in the story. We don't know when the place started, and we don't know when or how the county ended up with it, assuming it's the same park. I imagine we'd have a much clearer picture if only there was an online database for the Forest Grove newspaper, or even the Hillsboro one, but as far as I know neither of those is currently available. So feel free to leave a comment if you happen to know anything more about the place, or you have fond (if vague) memories of those wild 1985 keg parties you'd like to share, or you'd just like to cuss me out for telling the entire internet about your local secret swimming hole. I suppose that would be only fair, although I've been telling the internet about all kinds of local secret spots for years now, and I've never once been important enough for anyone to even notice, much less care.

Rippling Waters Park

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