The seeds of park improvements planted by the $198 million parks bond voters approved in 2014 will bloom in a big way, with a busy construction calendar at key projects this summer.
Chief among those projects is the first phase of a new 11-acre park along Commencement Bay at the eastside of Point Defiance Park. The grassy, waterfront park will take shape courtesy of hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of soil that will be relocated from remediation sites that will be dug up during enhancements elsewhere in the park. Work on the redesign of the nearby Pearl Street entrance to Point Defiance will also streamline traffic flows into and through the park, which will be the subject of public meetings this summer under the banner of Destination Point Defiance.
“That’s going to be a big part of this,” parks spokesman Mike Thompson said. “This is going to be busy.”
The parks district has hired its first Park Ranger to oversee Point Defiance and answer park-related questions alongside volunteers with the newly formed Friends of Point Defiance Park.
Elsewhere at Point Defiance, work is in the offing to improve the historic Fort Nisqually attraction, to reconstruct the Japanese garden in front of the Pagoda in the traditional style and to replace the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium’s 52-year-old aquarium and aging Rocky Shores exhibit. Scenic viewpoints around the park will also undergo erosion control work. Construction will begin this summer on the school district’s new, two-story Environmental Learning Center, which is being developed through a partnership with Tacoma Public School’s Science and Math Institute and the zoo.
Across town, the $30 million Eastside Community Center will take shape in early 2017 now that design concepts have been developed and the fundraising effort closes in on its goal. The center comes from a partnership involving Metro Parks, the City of Tacoma, Tacoma Housing Authority, Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound, and the YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties, Tacoma Schools and a host of other agencies. The much needed facility will serve as a community hub through a pooling of resources that will be a bit of a departure for the district since it will house programs not directly provided by Metro Parks.
“We have never done what we are trying to do here,” Parks District Communications Director Hunter George said.
The district’s STAR Center, for comparison is collocated on 75-acres of land South Tacoma that also has Gray Middle School, the Boys & Girls Club's Topping Hope Center and Metro Parks’ SERA athletic complex, but each facility manages its own programs and buildings.
People’s Community Center Pool in downtown is under renovation and set to reopen later this year with new offerings that include an expanded pool at the center, a lazy river and a water play zone.
Open space improvements entering their final stages include the purchase of land at Swan Creek Property Acquisition to provide more direct access to the park from Portland Avenue and the extension of the Prairie Line Trail through downtown and along the Thea Foss Waterway.