Talking Water Gardens
Supposedly, the Albany - Millersburg Talking Water Gardens is the first project of its kind in the USA: a combined private and public engineering effort to provide wastewater treatment for both municipal and local industry.
Sewage treatment lagoons are not usually considered tourist attractions. However, the Albany - Millersburg Water Reclamation Facility has created such an attraction. 50 acres of old lumber mill land have now been converted into a series of pools that are used for cooling off the wastewater from the treatment plant before the water enters the Willamette River. The water is warmer than is desirable for the river water, and also contains a lot of nitrogen which needs to be removed.
It so happens that wetlands are a great place to accomplish both of these tasks.
Having opened to the public in May of 2012, this is still a fairly new facility. There were no restrooms here as of October of 2012, but portable toilets have been placed in the parking area for the park across the street.
The facility consists of 50 acres of mostly ponds, with a series of trails winding through the artificial wetlands. A number of the areas within the facility are named. The map shown in Photo 2 is available on a sheet of paper available in a literature rack at the entrance to the garden. However, there are only so many of them printed so if you don't need yours please return it.
In autumn and winter these wetlands have already proven to be a huge attractant to migrating fowl of all sorts, including American Coots, American Widgeons, and a scattered few Cinnamon Teal. You will also find a few predators showing up from time to time (Bald Eagles - check the tops of nearby trees, and Red-Tailed and Coopers Hawks are hidden in the foliage of nearby trees), and the creek that runs along the southwest edge of the facility will sometimes see Kingfishers and Great Blue Heron so don't forget to check there for bird life as well. The long, stringy droppings that you find in a few places on the trails are from coyotes, which also hunt the waterfowl.
During a few weeks in August and September there are also a scattered few Green Heron that have found this place to their liking, and it seems that there might be more and more of them stopping by as more of them find their way here.
Along the outside of the southern fence of the Talking Water Garden you will find a Paved Pathway that connects the Talking Water Garden to Waverly Park, though it is somewhat hidden from the Waverly Park end of things. Here at the water gardens it is fairly easy to find as it is located right by the parking lot near the bridge that must be crossed to enter the parking area. From Waverly Park, take the pathway from the boat house toward Salem Avenue and then cross Salem Avenue at the cross walk, and you will find the trail on the opposite side of Salem Avenue between the small stream and the cemetery.
A few additional photos of the Water Garden:
Wintering Bird Life, 9 Feb 2013
Some Signs of Spring - April 21, 2013 at the Talking Water Garden
It Snowed Yesterday - December 7, 2013 at the Talking Water Garden
- Hiking and Walking
Waverly Park: Pond, Benches and Paddle Boats
Surrounded on all sides by busy roads, Waverly Park isn't an especially quiet place to relax. However, the trees that also surround the park, as well as the fact that the park is somewhat sunken, help make the park quite a bit quieter than you might expect when looking at it from the outside. I won't call it a tranquil place by any means, but at the same time the traffic noise isn't anywhere near as bad as, for example, Portland's Eastbank Esplanade.
There is a paved trail that leads all the way around the edge of the main part of the park, which is dominated by a very large pond (or small lake?). In the summer months paddle boats are rented for $5 per half-hour.
Surrounding the pond along the trail are a few benches, plus there are a few picnic tables towards the east end of the park.
The birds that live in the park are mostly the expected highly domesticated geese and mallards, but cormorants, pie pilled grebes, and occasionally common mergansers are to be found in the water here. Thus, while not a vital birding hot spot, it can be rewarding to stop here and check to see what is in the water.
The park is connected to the far less traffic dominated Talking Water Gardens by a Paved Pathway that is somewhat hidden from the Waverly Park end of things. From the boat house head toward Salem Avenue and then cross Salem Avenue at the cross walk, and you will find the trail on the opposite side of Salem Avenue between the small stream and the cemetery.
- Hiking and Walking
Dave Clark Riverfront Path
Named after a City of Albany employee that once had a vision and once led the Albany Parks and Recreation department, this short trail connects a number of points along the Willamette River, and provides river views.
The east end of the trail is near Front Avenue and Sherman Street, while the west end of the trail is at Monteith Park, so the trail itself is only about 15 blocks long.
This distance can be extended a bit by using some of the city streets and sidewalks. For example, eastward it is possible to extend your walk to include Bowman Park by walking just slightly south to Water Avenue, and then east to Cleveland (where an unmarked trail leads down the hill to the park) or to Geary (which has the main entrance to the park). Going west to Bryant Park requires walking south to 3rd Avenue and crossing a bridge into the park.
As seen in the photos, the trail is somewhat varied along its length. Most of the length is paved of some sort (mostly concrete), but there is one area of wooden boardwalk which promises to be very slippery when wet. There are areas with nice views of the river and benches, but there are also areas where dense trees block the view of the river. Some areas are fairly narrow as the trail goes between residential properties or the railroad line.
Unfortunately, this is a place where some of Albany's less fortunate congregate. None of these people will bother you much and they are pretty harmless, but just be aware that there aren't too many places for them to go in a town this size, and so you will see 5 or 6 or so in a few places along this trail - especially if the weather is good.
- Hiking and Walking
As noted by a previous VT review, Monteith Park has concerts in it on a regular basis and there is a permanent grandstand of sorts set up for these in the park.
The park itself, without having a concert going on in it, is a reasonably quiet recreational area. It includes a number of picnic tables, a small playground, and a picnic shelter. Unfortunately you will find one or two of Albany's less fortunate residents nearly permanently rooted here, as there isn't a whole lot else for them to do in Albany.
The paved sidewalks go down to the edge of the river, and offer some views of the river.
For the most part, the park is very quiet as busy roads are not very close. The most noise comes from those packing the semi-trucks at the post office across the street.
Concerts in Monteith Park
In the summer, there are free concerts every Thursday evening at Monteith Park. I think they start at 7 PM. Each week was something different: country, rock, cajun, Celtic to name a few musical styles. Many people come by earlier in the afternoon and reserve a spot on the grass with their blankets, and then later have a picnic before the concert started.