Right now it’s not much more than an idea, but a local group wants to transform Zelasko Park along the Wishkah River in downtown Aberdeen into a mini version of the waterfront of the 1890s, when lumber-laden three- and four-masted schooners called for cargoes bound for California, South America and Australia.
Among the proposal’s staunchest supporters is Robert Ford, an architect and member of the downtown development group Our Aberdeen’s Waterfront Development Committee. He has created a model of what the display might look like, complete with a replica lumber schooner.
The ship would be directly across Wishkah Street street from the proposed Gateway Visitors and Enterprise Center and would be one of the first things motorists coming from the east would see as they entered the downtown area.
“The Aberdeen Waterfront Development Committee has recognized an idea conceived by Aberdeen businessman Ray Ericks of Waugh’s Mens and Womens Clothing to place a replica of a historic lumber ship at the park, celebrating the dynamic importance of wooden sailing ships to Aberdeen and Grays Harbor,” said Ford. “To convey Ray Ericks’ vision, I designed a unique, semi-circular ‘harbor’ at the center of the park, intended to hold a full-sized replica of a three-masted logging schooner, typical of those built on the shores of the Wishkah and Chehalis rivers.”
With the timber industry taking off in the late 1800s came construction of many sawmills; the Wishkah riverfront soon became filled with wooden commercial buildings, hotels, bars and brothels.
The shores of the Wishkah and Chehalis rivers also became shipyards for locally built 120- to 150-foot wooden lumber ships. These two-, three- or sometimes four-masted schooners were built in the open on the banks of the rivers.
”All visitors from Olympia and east cross over the Wishkah River Bridge when entering Aberdeen and cross the Heron Street Bridge when leaving,” said Ford. “The park is exceptionally located for tourists visiting Aberdeen.”
The proposed Gateway Center, when built, would be directly north of the park at the west end of the Wishkah Bridge. “Visitors to this Grays Harbor Gateway Visitors and Enterprise Center may easily relax, stretch their legs and enjoy the park, the river and walk to downtown Aberdeen,” said Ford.
Ford said his design is supported by the members of the Our Aberdeen organization.
The ship would have a ramp from the shore to the mock harbor, allowing tourists to view, visit and even walk the ship’s deck, learning about Aberdeen’s early history while enjoying the park. Ford said there would be lumber stacked on the deck, another good spot to sit and learn about Aberdeen’s logging heritage.
The water in which the replica would sit would only be several feet deep and filled when the river experiences high tide. Ford’s design includes earth berms along the banks of the park and a vertical wall built up around the semi-circular “harbor;” both are intended to complement the flood control system currently being proposed by TimberWorks to project Aberdeen from future floods. Cost of the ship replica itself would, hopefully, be underwritten by foundations or campanies that once owned and operated sawmills locally, said Ford.
“The park will serve as a catalyst to connect the Q-Mart area, Gateway Center and old town historical district where the Pourhouse Tavern would ideally be rebuilt and relocated on its original site,” said Ford. “All these features, along with new small shops on the Wishkah waterfront, will be within easy walking distance of the established businesses in downtown Aberdeen.”
Ford said he and the committee envision a large cedar Indian dugout canoe and Native American artifacts and historical photos to be placed within the park, “since the Quinaults and other tribes were well established here before Captain Robert Gray, loggers and sawmills ‘discovered’ Grays Harbor.”
Anyone who would like to get on board with the project is encouraged to contact Robert Ford at firstname.lastname@example.org.