Foss Waterway Seaport hosts Metro Parks Tacoma waterfront open house

The Dickman head saw. (Hang onto your hats.) Photo courtesy Metro Parks Tacoma

Coinciding with museums’ free Third Thursday, presentations and displays will highlight Dickman Mill Park, Ruston Way and other waterfront projects.

Preliminary design plans for the resurrection of a relic of Tacoma’s lumbering heyday on the Old Town waterfront will be unveiled March 15 at a waterfront planning open house beginning at 6 p.m. at the Foss Waterway Seaport.

The open house will include at least two presentations and numerous displays. Metro Parks staff will be available to talk about waterfront projects, answer questions and hear comments. The event will take place inside the Seaport’s large multipurpose room.

The spotlight will be a presentation of a schematic design for Metro Parks’ Dickman Mill Park, where Cambia Health Solutions, the parent company of Regence BlueShield, marked its centennial in 2017 by pledging funds to restore the former lumber mill’s original head saw. Head saws got that name because they made the initial cuts that turned raw logs into lumber. This one is a historic artifact listed on both state and local landmarks registries.

Metro Parks also will present a preview of planning efforts for Tacoma’s Ruston Way waterfront. Envision Our Waterfront is the name of the year-long, joint effort of Metro Parks Tacoma and the City of Tacoma. It’s focused on the future of the waterfront area roughly bounded by Point Defiance Marina on the west and Chinese Reconciliation Park on the east.

Other Metro Parks Tacoma waterfront projects also will be showcased, including:

●  Two Foss Waterway parks planned in partnership with the Foss Waterway Development Authority

●  Point Defiance Park waterfront improvements, including the newly named 11-acre Dune Peninsula at Point Defiance Park

●  Owen Beach renovation plans

●  A master plan update for Titlow Park

“This will be a great way for people to see and hear what’s proposed and find out how they can contribute ideas,” said Commissioner Jessie K. Baines Jr., a member of the five-member Metro Parks Tacoma governing board. “Tacoma’s waterfront is the heart of our city’s appeal and its conservation is vital to our sustainability.”

The free event coincides with Tacoma’s monthly Third Thursday, an evening of free admission to the Foss Waterway Seaport and other downtown museums. While you’re at the Seaport, check out its new historical exhibit “The Puyallup People: First on the Waterways.” With significant support from the Puyallup Tribe, the exhibit explores the history of the Puyallup People and their intimate connection to the Salish Sea and the Puyallup River.

Dickman Mill project

The Dickman Mill Park, 2423 Ruston Way, is the site of the former Dickman Mill, which burned down in 1979, about five years after it closed. The mill was the last of many lumber mills that beginning in the late 19th century lined what is now the Ruston Way waterfront.

The Dickman head saw was crafted in Everett and installed in 1923. When in operation, it could cut boards as long as 65 feet. It stood 34 feet tall; its two huge wheels pulled a 15-inch-wide band saw. Operators changed the band and refiled its teeth twice daily.

Metro Parks and its coastal development consultant, Anchor QEA, have come up with a schematic plan to display the saw and its carriage, the mechanism which delivered logs to the saw. The plan features a waterfront viewing deck with seating, plus a narrow pier extending parallel to the log carriage and perpendicular to the viewing deck and shoreline. Because of extensive permit requirements associated with waterfront development, construction is unlikely to begin before November 2019.

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