Back, and Forth: A circuit through a place both new and familiar

Exploring is half the fun. The other half is finding other things to explore.

I’m new to Yamhill County, enjoying discoveries in the same place I attended college and have sampled many times over the years. So, I humbly present “Back, and Forth,” an occasional and thoroughly subjective ramble around new territory.

I’m drawn to parks in any community, especially now. I’ve seen plenty of local parks in my years, but none like Southwest McMinnville’s Westside Linear Park.

This scenic green space, shaped like a wiggly sideways L, connects neighborhoods west of Cozine Creek. It extends south from Apperson Street, just a block south of Second, almost to Fellows. Then it swings northwest to Westvale, a block east of Hill Road.

The recent loss of numerous trees along the path and canal is sad, but the pedestrian park retains all its open, take-it-slow appeal. On my first stroll along the patch, joggers made their way, teens shot hoops at the park’s mid-point at Cypress Street, and kids played at the Agee Street playground while their grandparents relaxed on a nearby bench.

Near Agee Street, I met Eric McLaughlin. He was building his hatchet-throwing target on the lawn behind his Richard Court home, adjacent to a lush swale separating his yard and the trail.

Gesturing at the sturdy frame, Eric said, “I helped my uncle build his horseshoe pit, and he told me the design is just like that, just build it upright. He’s a better carpenter than I am, but I’m figuring it out.”

Eric looks forward to weekends throwing his hatchets, and knows what to do when the three-foot wide, eight-inch-thick round needs replacing. “I’ll go up where the loggers just leave them lying around. I don’t even need to cut any wood myself.”

McLaughlin and his family have enjoyed their wide triangular yard since moving here 10 years ago. His sons are in high school and middle school.

Eric drives a produce truck now, leaving a long-haul job “when my kids got into sports.” He said, “I told my boss I needed to be home.”

He’ll use his new target to toss hatchets, working his way up to a double-headed ax, and later plans to build a horseshoe pit on the property as well. He already has a fire pit, well-used over the years. “I’m always careful to keep the hose handy,” he said.

Eric is a man at home in a space where his backyard seamlessly abuts the public park. “The property line’s from those bushes on over,” he points, sweeping his arm east to west. “I keep the lawn mowed, including the city’s part. They know I’ll take care of it, we get along great.”

Contact Kirby Neumann-Rea at kirby@newsregister.com or 503-687-1291.


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