‘Kay’s house’ demolition closes parts of Titlow Park trail until January

A shoreline trail at Titlow Park will partially shut down beginning Wednesday, Nov. 30, to allow contractors to begin demolition of a vacant beach house and remove contaminated soils.

Credit: Metro Parks "Kay's House," the former home of a Titlow Park caretaker, was acquired by Metro Parks in 1969. The house is scheduled for demolition as part of a shoreline restoration and park improvement project.

Credit: Metro Parks
“Kay’s House,” the former home of a Titlow Park caretaker, was acquired by Metro Parks in 1969. The house is scheduled for demolition as part of a shoreline restoration and park improvement project.

The closure extends from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. weekdays and is expected to last until January. Visitors still may reach the beach from the south end of the trail, beginning just north of Steamers Seafood Café. The portion to be closed lies between the Tacoma Outboard Association site and what is informally known as Kay’s house.

Kay’s house, once the home of a park caretaker and his wife, will be removed along with its underground septic system and storage tanks as part of a $597,000 project to restore the shoreline, improve fish and wildlife habitat and expand the public recreation area.

The nonprofit South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group received a $522,000 grant to spearhead the project. The group has hired a contractor to raze the single-story house, its garage, an attached boathouse, and a bulkhead, plus remove soil contaminated by airborne pollutants from the former copper smelter in Ruston. Debris will be removed by barge. After the demolition and excavation, workers will landscape and plant the shoreline with native species.

“For safety, we think it best to keep the public away from the site,” said Tom Dargan, the Metro Parks project manager coordinating with the SPSSEG.

Part of the job is to remove contaminated soil, a legacy of the former Asarco smelter. The house also contains harmful asbestos components. Also, during working hours, construction equipment will be moving back and forth along the north end of the shoreline trail.

Metro Parks Tacoma acquired the home in 1969.  One of the conditions of the acquisition was that its occupants, James and Kay Irwin, be allowed to reside there as long as they lived. Although the house has been vacant, since 2004 Metro Parks has used the building and its adjacent garage for storage.

The house is west of the railroad tracks, south of Hidden Beach and north of the Titlow lagoon channel. In the late 1940s, it was one of a small community of cottages west of the tracks and south of Hidden Beach.

Plans to remove the house are part of Metro Parks’ 2010 Titlow Park master plan, which was created through a public process. Besides demolition, the plan calls for eventual creation of a picnic meadow and viewing deck on the site. This project does not include funds for those improvements, which would come later.

Money for the project comes from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, by way of the Puget Sound Marine and Nearshore Grant Program, administered by the state Recreation and Conservation Office.

The terms of the salmon group’s grant require the project to be completed by the end of the year. Metro Parks is contributing $75,000 derived from capital improvement bonds approved by voters in 2014.

– Metro Parks