Fort Borst Park
It really is a shame that Fort Borst is a city park. If it was part of a natural paradise on a volcanic mountain, it would be an easier sell. You could talk about the lives of important local pioneers, wooden historic buildings, and rare trees, one of which can only be found in three other locations in Washington state. It would make national travel magazines. But because it’s a city park, it’s seen as less of a tourist destination.
Fort Borst is Centralia’s largest park at over one hundred acres. It has an outstanding diversity of activities and amenities and it is the go-to place for local holiday celebrations.
Perhaps it’s the sheer density of things to do that muddies the waters. Or maybe it’s the park’s familiarity to local residents. Either way, Borst Park doesn’t get the hype it deserves.
The park features two sites of historical significance — Fort Borst, one of the last remaining wooden blockhouses in the state, and the Borst homestead, residence of early town settlers — Joseph and Mary Borst.
The Borst homestead is part of a living history museum including demonstration gardens, a carriage house, and replica one-room schoolhouse. A Pioneer Church is being built on the site.
The church is at the edge of an arboretum including a rare Appalachian butternut tree, a cutting from the 170-year-old tree at the George Bush homestead in Tumwater, WA. The parent tree is one of the oldest of its kind in the world, with a trunk six feet in diameter at the base.
Fort Borst stands near the park’s main gates. The old wooden structure blends so well into the trees that drivers may miss it. It’s one of only a few remaining blockhouses in Washington state.
Unlike hiking trails with loose rocks and muddy footing, Fort Borst Park has three miles of easy walking and jogging trails partially paved for wheelchair access.
Park trails follow long loops — the Sports Loop, Lake Trail, and the Borst Park Loop Trail which encompasses both.
The Borst Loop Trail begins at the park’s main gates on Borst Avenue. It passes the Borst Blockhouse, joins the Borst Lake trail, then continues past the off-leash dog park and Rhododendron gardens. The trail meanders past the Borst Homestead, Chehalis River boat launch, then turns back towards the Sports Complex.
The Sports Complex takes up the west side of the park and includes: Thorbeckes Fitness and Aquatic Center, the Northwest Sports Hub Building, and more than a dozen sports fields, not including Tiger Stadium with seating for 3,500.
Is it unfair to compare Fort Borst Park to wilderness areas in other parts of Lewis County? People enjoy natural beauty here. They exercise and get fit. They live in a town of historical significance, founded by an African-American couple two decades after the Civil War.
It’s a city park, that’s true. But within its boundaries are remarkable historical structures, great sports facilities, and loads of natural beauty. Unfair? Maybe if you live in the middle of a national park than it would be. For Centralia’s residents and local visitors, Fort Borst Park is perfect just the way it is.