Olympia’s Yauger Park: The Life Breath of The Locals

Yauger Park


By Jake Luplow

Yauger Park
Yauger Park Community Garden

Could you imagine living in a world of black and white: walking into the city and seeing skyscrapers and cars and people, all just shades of grey? A land where charcoal and soot form the backdrop of your life.

Yauger Park, located in West Olympia, used to be just that: a park woven with shades of grey. “It was a poor, unclean park. Basically just a place to walk your dog,” explained Jamie Davis, a local park fan.

According to David Hanna, Associate Director of Olympia Parks and Recreation, and Marcus Goodman, Senior Program Specialist, the park was built in 1982 by retired United States Army Colonel Yauger. Water from the surrounding area would drain into the park’s basin. The park was designed to carry water from the north to the south end, and then drain it to the Black Lake Meadows storm water facility through pipes and swales connected to the basin.

In 2000, a skate park was added to accommodate local skaters.

Since then, it shifted from a grungy park to a family friendly environment.

Phil Shillander, an avid park goer, explained this shift quite well, “The park use to be pretty run down; it really wasn’t anything special. I used to skate there every day. There were a lot of homeless people who use to hang out in the woods and drink and stuff. I’d say, since the new updates, the park seems much cleaner and more maintained—kinda like happier.”

Yauger ParkThe newest updates all happened in 2011. These include: a community garden, new play equipment, a repainted concession building, new covered bike racks, and storm water improvements.

As discussed with Hanna and Goodman, the city invested money for these improvements to protect the public’s health and safety and to improve the overall experience of the park. As for the storm water update, it helps to improve water quality before it enters into the Sound.

For the near future, updates include new fencing for the outfield and possibly bleachers.

So what does a day at the park look like? Let me take you back to Sunday, May 6th.

It was a sunny afternoon, the molten sun blazed overhead. Everything seemed green: the grass and trees seemed to have a sparkling sheen. The pond was beautiful, ducks swam, birds flew overhead, and a lady sat by the shoreline, seemingly mesmerized by the glassy pond.

Yauger ParkThis was my first visit to Yauger Park. The baseball fields were big—a few people scattered around, all lost in the various scenes of nature. I saw a couple lying in the middle of one of the fields having a picnic, Joshua and Amanda Van Winkle.

When I asked them about the park and what it meant to them, Joshua said, “It’s one of the best maintained parks I have been in, and it gives kids a place to go to stay out of trouble. It’s one of those places I know of where I can say, ‘hey lets go to the park.’ Amanda commented, “To us, this park is a nice clean, family friendly environment where people can come and play baseball and sports.”

“A family friendly environment,” that phrase burned into my skull.  I have been to many parks, most littered with beer bottles and trash. Parks where the locals seemed nothing more than shadows looming amidst a wasteland.

When, I reached the adjacent field, I spoke with Ted Fletcher, another local park goer. “Since the new updates, the park has been much nicer. The kids love that new playground. I come here nearly every day to walk my dog. To me, this park is a place to get out and walk around, a place where I feel safe,” he said.

After that, I made my way to the new playground.

The playground was amazing and enormous. 30+ kids were running around having a good time. Their faces beamed a phosphorescent glow like a hundred fireflies flitting through the night. It took me back to when I was that age, having not a care in the world—only nirvana.

Yauger ParkTo the right of the play equipment sat a young couple, Scott and Leia Johnson. Scott explained, “this park is an awesome place to go. Any time the weather is nice, there are tons and tons of families here.” His wife said, “We just moved here in August, and the first thing we did was look for a park for our kids. There are other parks in the area, but this is the nicest.”

I walked back to my car thinking about the different people I met and what they had to say. The general consensus is that it’s much nicer, that it’s a family friendly environment to bring your kids. But what exactly does that mean? What all can you do at the park?

According to Hanna, Yauger Park is both a community and a neighborhood park. It supports many recreational activities including, picnic areas and tables, a playground, athletic fields, a running track, several horseshoe pits, and a skate court.

So if you’re getting tired of dinner and a movie or of the bar scene, go have a picnic at the park with your sweetheart or bring your kids and teach them how to play horseshoe.

Yauger Park is located at: 3100 Capital Mall Drive Southwest.

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