Give feedback on Point Defiance improvements at Feb. 10 open house

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Visitors can expect changes at Owen Beach to include improvements to restrooms and infrastructure, all with the overarching goal of enhancing accessibility and the beach experience. Photo courtesy of Metro Parks Tacoma

Point Defiance Park, a crown jewel of Tacoma, is slated for significant upgrades over the coming year and now residents will get the opportunity to weigh in on what improvements they would like for their favorite amenity.

The public is encouraged to attend a free open house conveniently timed from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10, at the park’s new Environmental Learning Center adjacent to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. City planners and project managers will be present to answer any questions and receive feedback.

“We put a lot of emphasis on public engagement for many projects; it’s part of our ethos,” said Michael Thompson, public information manager for Metro Parks Tacoma. “We’re using public resources and public dollars to deliver public good, so people need opportunity to weigh in.

“We usually have most of our public meetings on weeknights around 6 p.m. and we’ve had some good turnout, but we wanted to see if we could improve the turnout by having a meeting on Saturday,” Thompson continued. “It will be more convenient to people’s schedules, and if we do have a good turnout then that will probably influence how we schedule future meetings.”

Wilson Way, an elevated bridge for pedestrians and cyclists, connects Ruston Way to Point Defiance Park and will open late 2018. Illustration by Stephanie Bower

The open house, in part, will serve as a preview to project planning for Ruston Way, improvements to Owen Beach, the waterfront, and an improved roundabout and traffic circulation at the Pearl Street entrance. There will also be updates on the zoo’s new Pacific Seas Aquarium, projected to open this summer; Wilson Way, the bicycle-pedestrian bridge linking the park’s trails to Ruston Way; a new multi-use parking area adjacent to the boat launches; a planned 11-acre recreation area atop the park’s breakwater peninsula; volunteer opportunities and summer camps.

“There will be an interactive experience at the open house where people can write on a big white board with a photographic map of Ruston Way – that’s a preview of a planning initiative that will start in a few months,” Thompson said. “The big question will be, ‘What would you like the waterfront to become?’”

In regard to the Owen Beach improvements, Thompson said Metro Parks has some ideas for how to make the beach more accessible to people.

“We’re upgrading restrooms and a lot of the infrastructure,” Thompson said. “We’re focusing on how to make it more enjoyable for people without detracting from the beach, which is the main attraction. We’re talking about enhancing the beach experience.”

In regard to traffic circulation improvements throughout the park, Thompson said much has been done to engage the public in finding out what they want, including public meetings and online surveys.

“We have put all of that together,” Thompson said. “We have some proposals on how traffic flow might be improved in the park. The sensitivity is we want it to be the right balance between getting to their destinations safely and efficiently, but we’re also conscious that we want to preserve the main attraction, which is the park.

“We have said before that we don’t want Point Defiance Park to become Disneyland,” Thompson added. “It’s a regional attraction and a regional park. But it’s also a park that many people in Tacoma hold near and dear to their hearts, so we want to see where we can improve traffic flow.”

For those who can’t attend the open house, Thompson said an online survey will be posted to destinationpointdefiance.org.

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