I have heard a lot about John Topits Park since I moved to Coos Bay, especially since the city council decided to build a new library in the park.

And to be honest, most of it wasn’t flattering. Based on what I’ve heard and some letter writers have said, I assumed the park was crawling with homeless people and was somewhere that was not safe to be.

So I was surprised a few weeks ago when my wife and kids came home raving about the new park they had found. So, I had to go see for myself.

When we drove into John Topits Park last week, the first thing that came out of my mouth was “Wow.” It was nothing like I expected.

If you haven’t been, just drive in and look. It’s realy hard to believe that seconds from Newmark Avenue and probably less than a mile from Walmart is this outdoor paradise. Heck, it’s less than two miles from my house, and until last week I had never been.

In this area, we are surrounded by saltwater, as oceans and bays are evident in almost every city around us. But little did I know, two amazing freshwater lakes were right there, just miles from my home.

Throughout most of my life, I have been someone who loves going fishing, but my love has always been for freshwater. I simply don’t know enough or have the right equipment to do well in the ocean. I’ve tried, and I’ve failed, way too many times.

So driving into Topits Park, the first thing I noticed was this large body of fresh water. Turns out it’s one of two lakes in the park. As soon as we parked, I noticed some people fishing, so I walked over and talked to them. They had been at it a little while, catching a handful of perch and bluegill. I was all in, and that was in the first five minutes.

That day, we stayed near the playground area as my kids played on the playground and spent some time on the exercise equipment. We did walk down to the water to check out a group of geese in the water. There was a pretty big crowd around, but I felt safe and secure.

So I decided to go back today, bringing my two youngest children along. The goal was to walk some of the paved trails to get a little deeper into the park.

And it was amazing. We didn’t go too far, maybe 30 minutes of walking, but we saw both lakes, moved into the forest, picked some blackberries, talked to others out walking and riding bikes. It was a great experience.

If you love the outdoors, Topits Park is a little slice of heaven in the middle of Coos  Bay. In an hour, I saw people walking, riding bikes, fishing, swimming and even taking a canoe into the lake.

Although it was warm today, as soon as we began walking the trails, we moved into the shade, lowering the temperature several degrees.

John Topits Park is 120 acres with paved trails meandering through much of it. One could walk or ride for miles on the trails and never run out of something new to see.

One thing I didn’t see was a large number of homeless people. I saw not tents, no camps, no debris, and I certainly felt safe while out there with my kids. Having said that, if I was homeless, Topits Park is the exact kind of place I would want to be, so it wouldn’t suprise me if some did find a way to sneak into the park at night.

Like all city parks, Topits Park closes every night at sunset, and camping is not allowed. But during the day, it’s a beautiful, peaceful place, and I frankly can’t wait to see more of it. It might even be time to get a fishing license so I can see what is lurking in the two lakes.

To get to Topits Park from Highway 101, take Newmark Avenue past Walmart. Get in the right lane, and when the lane ends, turn right. Then get ready to say, “Wow.”

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