VANC0UVER, Wash. (KOIN) — A new playground will soon take shape at Vancouver’s Esther Short Park to replace the old playground that was destroyed by fire. The playground, modeled after similar playgrounds by Harper’s Playground, will be accessible to children with disabilities and their families.
The playground is a key feature of the park that hosts events from concerts to the farmer’s market — and it fits the vision of the woman for whom the park is named.
“It’s the center of downtown Vancouver, and we wanted to make sure that it wasn’t just a playground, but it was a place where whole families could feel comfortable, safe and have fun playing at,” said Kirsti Hauswald with AKS Engineering.
Esther Short was a Native American mother of 12 from Pennsylvania who braved the Oregon Trail to arrive in Vancouver in 1847 with her husband, Amos.
Despite the British Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Vancouver trying to drive them out, Amos staked a claim. He even shot and killed a man over the land claim — and was acquitted.
But in 1853, Amos drowned in the Columbia River when a ship he was on sank. After his death, Esther claimed 640 acres of his land. She opened a restaurant, a hotel and a public wharf in 1855, two years before Vancouver was incorporated.
“She’s starting to see that that Vancouver is growing, and in her will, she dedicates 5.4 acres to be a park, a plaza, a community area, which was very new,” Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnery-Ogle told KOIN 6 News. “And that’s why we say that Esther Short Park is probably the oldest park in the Pacific Northwest.”
In the 1990s, then-Mayor Royce Pollard rallied the business community to revitalize it. The playground is part of the future she hoped for.
“It’s still Esther’s Park, Esther Short’s Park,” McEnerny-Ogle said. “I think Esther would have been very proud of this.”
The new playground will also have a new, accessible merry-go-round. Work will begin in June and the playground is expected to open in the fall.