The Cope Park I remember growing up in the 1980s and ‘90s is very different from the memories someone might have if they grew up in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. I remember a playground, swing set, old scary bathrooms, tennis courts, and a rundown ball field. Currently the ball field is now a fenced dog park, the bathrooms have been rebuilt at a new location, and the swing set is gone. The city plans to improve the area in 2016.
What about before that?
In August 1888, a group of men including George Garside and William Sanders were in the area doing assessment work and driving an adit. Then in 1899, John Wagner, William Ebner, and F. A. Brown took over the area. At the Boston prospect just across the stream from the current Cope Park parking lot, 10 miners were sinking a 150-foot shaft. (The site was called the Boston prospect to try to entice East Coast investors.) Tunnels were dug at the 50-, 100-, and 150-foot levels to expose good ore. The Treadwell Company leased the prospect in 1911 and did some sampling but did not do much else.
Then in 1914, the Boston prospect was bought by George Noble of the Hallum Construction Company. During this time, Cope Park was referred to as The Pond or Wagner’s Pond, named after Nick Wagner who had a dairy in the area. The Pond was used by local children as a play site for many years. Making rafts, playing with small boats, swimming, picnics, ice skating, or just exploring the hillside, the area was used by many Juneau locals.
The area was later named “Evergreen Bowl” due to the abundant spruce and hemlock in the area. In 1934 the US Forest Service improved the area for more recreation. The pond was filled in with mine tailings, and the area was clear-cut and leveled. The Juneau Chamber in January 1936 proposed that it would be easy to tunnel from Seward Street to Evergreen Bowl for easy and safer access for school children. The idea was tossed around for several years, but the project was never completed.
On July 18, 1941, a swimming pool was completed, along with tennis courts, a horseshoe pit, and a field for baseball and softball. The pool was unheated and the changing room was open to the elements. Many locals have fond memories of the swimming pool and other activities in the area. The swimming pool was filled up on Sunday nights from the nearby Gold Creek. The water, being snow run-off, was ice cold for the first part of the week, but later in the week the water became warmer. Hundreds of children and teens learned to swim at the Evergreen Bowl Swimming Pool. On sunny days the place would be packed, standing room only. Families had picnics nearby, played tennis, and softball. On rainy days, school kids were almost forced into the water, while their parents often watched from the warmth of the family station wagon. In the winter months the hill behind the now tennis courts was used for skiing and sledding (1935 to 1970). The Juneau Ski Club had a tow rope installed in 1948.
Here are a few locals’ memories:
“I learned to ski on the hill on the west side of the bowl. We would side step up the hill, then ski the 15 seconds down and then do it all again. Some people even built small jumps. The tennis courts were flooded in the winter and we would ice skate or play hockey on them. The hill was also good for sledding.” — Steven Schmitz
“Everybody my age that grew up in Juneau in the ‘70s learned to swim there. The water was freezing and heavily chlorinated, but my mom would bring my sister and I there during her lunch breaks in the summer and we would really enjoy ourselves.” — Nichelle Jacobson
“The sledding hill was wicked. Rode a tractor tire down with eleven people stacked like cordwood! Well, most of us made it all the way.” — Greg Anderson
Evergreen Bowl was officially renamed Cope Park on Nov. 8, 1977. Cope Park was named after Bill Cope, owner of the 20th Century Market (where the downtown McDonalds used to be) and Foodland. He was also a captain in the volunteer fire department and spent much of his time organizing sports and other activities in the Juneau area.
I’d be surprised if anyone still calls the area Wagner’s Pond, or the Boston Mine, but many still call it Evergreen Bowl.
More than 500 feet of underground workings exist under Cope Park today. On the far side of Gold Creek still rest the hoist, boiler, Pelton Wheel and a lone pipe sticking out of the ground where the shaft once was. At the Early Bird Mine, just a bit downstream, is a 202-foot adit, blocked with a wire fence.
Please, if you remember this place, share the stories with your friends and family. Miners left a lot of history behind; enjoy it while you can. It will not be here forever.