Last year was a key development year for Metro Parks Tacoma, with planning, design and construction of landmark facilities around the parks system. The pace will continue in 2019 as the district improves facilities around its holdings thanks to a $198 million bond voters approved in 2014.
Much of the construction, and eventual celebratory fanfare for the parks district, will center on Wilson Way and Dune Peninsula along the Commencement Bay stretch of Point Defiance. Wilson Way, which is projected to be completed in late spring or early summer, includes a 600-foot long, 50-foot wide pedestrian and bike bridge that will provide a vital elevated walkway for non-motorized vehicles to stroll or pedal the full length of the waterway and provide scenic views of not only the water but Mount Rainier and the Olympic Mountain range. The bridge is named after former Parks Director Jack C. Wilson. The Dune Peninsula, named in honor of science fiction author and former Tacoma resident Frank Herbert, will soon offer grassy open space and scenic views of Commencement Bay to complement the nearby Tacoma Yacht Club facilities. The trail leading to the site will be named in Herbert’s honor as well.
“These two projects will bring to a close the transformation of more than 40 acres of severely contaminated land,” Parks Commission President Aaron Pointer wrote in an open letter to the community. “It is part of a federally designated Superfund cleanup site, the legacy of the former Asarco copper smelter, which shut down in 1985 after nearly a century of Ruston operations.”
The signature developments on the peninsula come after Metro Parks had its fair share of ribbon cuttings and grand openings in 2018, most notably the $51.6 million Pacific Seas Aquarium that replaced the aging North Pacific Aquarium with a state-of-the-art exhibit that features regional marine species as well as warm-water sea life, like sea turtles, hammerhead sharks and eagle rays. The addition to the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium drew record crowds, topping 1 million visitors last year.
Another significant milestone project last year was the opening of the Eastside Community Center, a $32 million, 55,000-square-foot facility that was made possible by a roster of community partnerships that brought a swimming pool, gymnasium, sound-recording studio, fitness and weight-lifting equipment, meeting spaces, a culinary kitchen and high-tech lounge to the often-overlooked neighborhood. It’s also the Eastside home of the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound. The opening of the facility meant that the former Portland Avenue Community Center was made obsolete. It, however, will continue to serve the community. The Korean Women’s Association, a nonprofit social service agency, is taking over management of the center, with a pledge to invest up to $1 million in improvements and operations at the center. Metro Parks will continue to manage Portland Avenue Park.