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From Mud to Magnificent: How WTA Helped Transform a Neighborhood Park

Posted by Vietsr at Mar 21, 2023 12:41 PM |

WTA, in partnership with other groups, helps transform the muddy trails in Whipple Creek Park into a neighborhood greenspace fit for year-round use by hikers, bikers, equestrians and more.

Whipple Creek Regional Park is a 300-acre greenspace in southwest Washington, tucked between neighborhoods and farms just outside of Vancouver. Today, it’s a beautiful expanse of wooded trails dotted with ferns and enjoyed by hikers, mountain bikers and the equestrian community alike. But travel back in time 10 years and the park would have looked a lot different. Whipple Creek is a story of how passionate community members, partnerships and a whole lot of elbow grease can turn a park full of muddy, unsustainable trails into a neighborhood oasis.


Back in 2010, Whipple Creek Regional Park’s 4.3 miles of trails were primarily used by the equestrian community. It was, and still is, one of the few parks in Clark County open to equestrians. And while it was a quiet escape close to the city, its trails were also notorious for thick, deep mud, making the trails unusable for large portions of the year. It was clear that something had to be done to make recreation in the park more enjoyable.

A very muddy trail at Whipple Creek Regional Park in 2014.
Mud, as seen from this picture from 2014, was one of the primary barriers to year-round trail use at Whipple Creek Park. Photo from the WTA archives.

Several equestrian groups were already involved with the park at the time, including the Backcountry Horsemen of Washington and the Washington Trail Riders Association. Plans to improve the muddy conditions of the park really took off when passionate equestrian and local community member, Anita Will, helped found the Whipple Creek Restoration Committee (WCRC).

Through research, the WCRC discovered a significant amount of unused funding that had been earmarked for use at Whipple Creek Park. This funding, along with property that now makes up the portions of the park, was donated by the local Landerholm, Lansverk and Elmer families. Since then, this funding has been used for projects like restoration work on the historic mill building on the property, but also to significantly improve the muddy trail conditions. WCRC-led volunteer groups went to work adding gravel — lots and lots of gravel — to the main trails in the park to help resurface and improve drainage. They also supported routine maintenance and restoration efforts, like removing invasive plants.


While the main trails in the park were receiving a healthy dose of gravel, the mud on the more primitive, natural surface trails still needed to be addressed — and that’s where WTA came in. Muddy trails can often be fixed by digging additional drainage to help water roll off the trail. However, many factors — soil type, park topography, flat spots — meant that several of the park’s existing trails would require significant, ongoing maintenance to keep boots dry during the rainy season.

WTA helped pinpoint areas in the park prone to mud and proposed a design that would reroute several sections of trail to make them more sustainable in the long term. With plans approved by WCRC and Clark County Parks, WTA volunteers went to work building the newly designed trails. This multi-year project also included the construction of two turnpikes (raised areas of trail), building a retaining wall to support a switchback prone to erosion, cutting back overgrown brush and more. Between the freshly graveled main trails and the rerouted primitive trails, Whipple Creek is now a less muddy and more enjoyable park for all types of recreation.

Flags mark a rerouted trail in Whipple Creek Park
Flags mark a reroute on Huckleberry Hill trail in Whipple Creek Park in 2016. Photo from the WTA archives.


While there are no additional reroutes planned for Whipple Creek at this time, WTA continues to return to help with routine maintenance and has hosted general, all women’s, Fireside Circle, and family work parties at the park. In fact, WTA volunteers have been helping keep Whipple Creek trails free of mud and brush for the last 10 years in a row! In total, the WCRC has helped spur over 15,000 volunteer hours in the park, including nearly 4,000 hours from WTA-led work parties.

WTA understands the importance of having access to nature close to home — it’s the foundation of our Trail Next Door work — but we also know how important partnerships are in making this work possible. We’re excited to be able to play a part in the work spearheaded by the Whipple Creek Park Restoration Committee and other dedicated groups to help make Whipple Creek the beautiful green space it is. Now, locals and visitors alike, can enjoy time in nature, observe wildlife and connect with friends and family without having to endure copious amounts of mud — all within a few minutes of their homes.

A group of volunteers use trail maintenance tools to perform routine trail maintenance at Whipple Creek Park.
A group of volunteers from the Great Old Broads for Wilderness hiking group performs routine maintenance at Whipple Creek in 2022 on a WTA all-women’s work party. Photo by Stasia Honnold.

Looking to get involved? You can also support our Trail Next Door work by finding a WTA work party in your own neighborhood or making a gift to WTA today.