NAKED FALLS, Wash. -- A Vancouver man is breathing new life into Naked Falls.
The popular swimming, turned cliff-diving spot in rural Skamania County closed down last year. Its then-owner, the timber giant Weyerhaeuser, cited safety concerns.
Steven Epling, 37, understood the reasons for the closure but it hurt.
“I can feel it right now,” he said. “My heart sank.”
He’d been coming to Naked Falls since he was 13.
“I don't really have an affinity for things. I don't get really attached to things, specifically,” he said. “So, in a similar way that I feel an attachment to people, I feel attached to this place.”
Suddenly, Epling, whose background is in finance, had an idea. He could buy it and run it.
“A lot of people told me I was crazy,” he said.
Still, he persisted. The manager of a local credit union sold off rental properties, got a loan, and in March, paid $275,000 for 131 acres.
He has long-term plans to build restrooms and campsites at the site, and limit parking with $10 permits. He plans to eventually hire a full-time campsite host.
Epling also has plans to mitigate safety concerns. He’s consulted with attorneys and law enforcement and plans to provide more parking, to keep roadways clear for emergency vehicles.
He’ll also display plenty of signage, warning people of the dangers of slick rocks and quick currents.
Finally, he’s asking people, especially parents, to use common sense.
“People need to be responsible and realize that they’re coming to a place with certain natural hazards,” he said.
For now, Epling thinks people, including his 6-year-old son, should be able to enjoy Naked Falls.
Come Saturday, he plans to give it the grand reopening it deserves.
“Places like this have either become fewer and fewer or have become more and more costly,” he said. “And to think that local people who have been enjoying it for decades, centuries maybe, could no longer do that... It meant too much to me to let it go.”
Epling plans to keep the site open through the Fourth of July holiday, adding it will be open on weekends after that.
Permits will be sold on site.
For now, information can be found through the site’s Facebook page.