If Ocean Park clocks were suddenly turned back a century, residents would find themselves in the midst of a Christian revival center.
I.A. Clark, a man who co-founded nearby Oysterville in 1854, felt that Oysterville was becoming a small boom town without space for religious freedom and tranquillity. He led a movement to create the religious community that was to be called Ocean Park.
Much of that need is still being served by the community, as evidenced by a Methodist camp just north of town, a Bible camp to the south and several churches in between.
Clark's religious interests reportedly lay in fundamental Christian revival, primarily Baptist and Methodist in nature, as did those of much of the Peninsula population in the 1870s and 1880s. They were manifested in revival camp meetings complete with Bible sermons, singing, picnicking and camping - for all of which the Ocean Park area would provide the perfect home.
Clark found that his Oysterville community, which had offered a Methodist church, was soon transformed into a small boomtown by the seafood industry, especially when the final leg of the Ilwaco Railroad and Navigation Co. rail line stretched to nearby Nahcotta, and he began to search elsewhere for a Christian revival center.
In 1883 Clark proposed to a group of Methodist leaders that they merge the concepts of Christian revival camp meetings, campgrounds and summer resorts in a huge center west of Nahcotta.
The Rev. William R. Osborn, founder of a Christian camp near Ocean Grove, N.J., jumped at the chance and bought 140 acres for the purpose. Clark, who previously had purchased an adjacent 400 acres, donated 20 to the movement and the 160 acres was platted for the Ocean Park community. Osborn and 10 laymen formed the Methodist Camp Meeting Association.
Original deeds included several restrictions, including the prohibition of saloons and similar establishments. The evolution of Ocean Park from a revival center to a business-tourist Mecca over the past century, however, has completely overruled that idea.
With the aid of the IR&N railroad, which chugged through Ocean Park on its way from Ilwaco to Nahcotta, the new community began to grow. By 1892 it had more than 30 homes and cabins, as well as the Methodist colony, and by the turn of the century the town was bolstered by canneries, stores and a myriad of small shops.
The death knell of the "Clamshell Railway" in 1930, tolled by the advent of automobiles, highways and ferry traffic, led to an increase in the tourist industry. Visitors simply climbed aboard their own horseless carriages and motored out to Ocean Park for the sunshine, surf, fishing, calming, hunting and camping.
Ocean Park responded with the construction of hotels, motels, campgrounds, picnic areas, restaurants and vacation homes.
Downtown Ocean Park development eventually pulled the center of north-end Peninsula business away from Oysterville and Nahcotta. Today, recognized as the most populated unincorporated community in Pacific County, Ocean Park's permanent winter residential count is well above 1,400, many of them retirees - a figure that pales when one considers that an estimated 10,000 seasonal residents enjoy the area each summer.
Serving local full-time residents are a bank, post office, markets, hardware, lumber and a myriad other stores and businesses. Including, the memory of I.A. Clark notwithstanding, a liquor store and several taverns and saloons.
Zip code: 98640
Ocean Park was founded in 1883 as a combination Christian revival camp and summer resort by I.A. Clark of Oysterville and the Rev. William R. Osborn. Original deeds prohibited any establishments selling alcoholic beverages, a stricture that is no longer observed.
Ocean Park is increasingly a center for art galleries, craft stores and restaurants, not to mention resorts and B&Bs.
There is good access to the beach at Ocean Park, with the east-west arterial Bay Avenue offering a pleasant walk between the Pacific Ocean and Willapa Bay, where Ocean Park transitions into the bayside village of Nahcotta.
For the fourth time, Ocean Park's main event of the year, the Rod Run to the End of the World, will be held on the weekend after Labor Day in 2001. It will be at the new field on Sandridge Road.