Letters to Tacoma City Hall support Weyerhaeuser Park along Thea Foss Waterway

Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Foss Waterway Development Authority (FWDA) have received overwhelming support for an effort under way to name a waterfront park along Thea Foss Waterway after the late George H. Weyerhaeuser, Jr. — a Tacoma civic booster and member of the Weyerhaeuser family (see “Foss Waterway park could be named to honor Tacoma booster George Weyerhaeuser Jr.,” Tacoma Daily Index, Nov. 7, 2014).

Weyerhaeuser was born on Nov. 19, 1953, and raised in Lakewood. Weyerhaeuser earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale University, and a master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, before he joined the family’s eponymous, now-115-year-old timber company in 1978. He held a number of executive positions at the company until he retired in 2008. He died following a heart attack on April 14, 2013, while aboard his boat on Thea Foss Waterway in Tacoma. He was 59 years old.

Weyerhaeuser was also a long-time Tacoma supporter to who advocated for a number of waterfront projects.

“George H. Weyerhaeuser, Jr. genuinely loved the downtown waterfront and was devoted to its improvement for the betterment of the city and its citizen,” wrote FWDA Executive Director Su Dowie in an Oct. 27, 2014, letter to Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission nominating to name the park in honor of Weyerhaeuser. “His spirit will always be with us, and so should his name.

“George’s quiet leadership built marinas, the public esplanade, a park, and two museums, and established an active environmental stewardship program for the waterfront,” added Dowie. “The waterway we have today is a direct result of George’s dedication and many, many hours of volunteer work and philanthropy.”

A waterfront park located along Thea Foss Waterway could soon be named after Tacoma civic booster George H. Weyerhaeuser, Jr. (IMAGE COURTESY BCRA / CITY OF TACOMA)

A waterfront park located along Thea Foss Waterway could soon be named after Tacoma civic booster George H. Weyerhaeuser, Jr. (IMAGE COURTESY BCRA / CITY OF TACOMA)

According to documents prepared by City staff, the park is currently unnamed and consists of three parcels on either side of the State Route 509 bridge — 1955 Dock St., 2101 Dock St., and 2119 Dock St.. Two parcels — 2101 Dock St. and 2119 Dock St. — are owned by FWDA, and one parcel — 1955 Dock St. — is owned by the City of Tacoma. The park opened to the public in 2009. It is the former site of a butter tub factory, according to City staff, which became Harmon cabinets and later burned to the ground in the early-1990s.

Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission reviewed the nomination in December and held a public hearing in January (see “Public hearing scheduled for proposed Weyerhaeuser park along Thea Foss Waterway,” Tacoma Daily Index, Jan. 26, 2015). The public comment period remained open for 30 days following the hearing.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission is scheduled to vote on the nomination during a public meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Weds., March 11, at the Tacoma Municipal Building, 747 Market St., Room 248, in downtown Tacoma. Copies of the agenda and meeting materials are available online here. If the nomination is approved, a recommendation to officially name the park after George H. Weyerhaeuser, Jr. will be forwarded to Tacoma City Council for final approval.

Between September 2014 and February 2015, the FWDA and the Landmarks Preservation Commission received 14 letters from 12 individuals and organizations supporting the nomination. Here is a closer look at some of those letters.

Susan Warner, Executive Director, Museum of Glass (Sept. 29, 2014)

I am pleased to submit this letter to the Landmarks Preservation Committee in support of naming the park at the south end of the Thea Foss Waterway after George H. Weyerhaeuser, Jr., who passed away in April 2013.

George was a visionary leader at the Museum of Glass, serving on the board of trustees from 1999 until his death. He served as board chairman from 2004 to 2008. George guided three Museum directors with grace, humor, and good sense. He was a true advocate for the Museum.

In addition to his leadership in the arts community, George was a civic pioneer. He was currently serving as president of the FWDA, a board on which he had served for many years, and was known as being a man who combined a passion for civic betterment with a keen business sensibility. Weyerhaeuser was personally credited for much of the revitalization of the Thea Foss Waterway.

From 2006 to 2009, Weyerhaeuser served on the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, based in Geneva, Switzerland, as a senior fellow.

George was a true leader in numerous fields — the arts, civic betterment, and global economics. But beyond that, he was an extraordinary person who exemplified what it means to be selfless. He was kind, unassuming, affable, and — most of all — a contributor.

I sincerely hope the Landmarks Preservation Committee will choose to honor George H. Weyerhaeuser, Jr.

Sally C. Hass, colleague and friend, Weyerhaeuser Company (Oct. 8, 2014)

As a 30-year employee of Weyerhaeuser Company, I knew and worked with George Jr. I am also a boater and have had my boat Spirit of Balto in the Thea for 10 years. I very much concur with naming the park after George Jr. as a recognition to both him and his entire family.

Luke Curtis, Vice President, Foss Waterway Seaport (Oct. 12, 2014)

I enthusiastically endorse the FWDA proposal to name the park at the south of the Foss Waterway the George H. Weyerhaeuser, Jr. Park.

I worked for Weyerhaeuser for 38 years and knew George for a lot of that time, particularly when he was the president of Weyerhaeuser Canada and I was responsible for marketing the Canadian lumber products into Japan.

Over the past 15-plus years, we were both members of the Weyerhaeuser Captains Club, a boating group that enjoyed one to two rendezvous a year, including one at the Dock Street Marina after its opening.

One of my goals in retirement has been to honor and promote our maritime heritage, and as such have been on the Foss Waterway Seaport Board since 2001.

I was so pleased that George was an active FWDA Boardmember and his leadership and vision for the rebirth of our waterfront carried over in support of our project. His wise advice and counsel at various stages of our project development steered us in the right direction. The project success today is in large part due to his support.

We all miss George, but honoring him will perpetuate his legacy for a better Tacoma and the Foss Waterway. I travel by the park nearly every day and seeing his name there will make me proud that I was able to know him and be a friend.

Wesley A. Wenhardt, Executive Director, Foss Waterway Seaport (Oct. 13, 2014)

On behalf of the Foss Waterway Seaport, I am writing to endorse the FWDA proposal to name the park at the south of the Foss Waterway the George H. Weyerhaeuser, Jr. Park.

Although I have recently assumed this position, I understand from my board that Mr. Weyerhaeuser was an active and key FWDA Boardmember, and his leadership and vision for the rebirth of our waterfront carried over in support for the Foss Waterway Seaport project.

It is essential that we remember and honor those pioneering individuals who have invested time and energy in creating the Foss Waterway and its key projects that enable us to enjoy the successful projects today.

Thank you for allowing me to write in support of this important initiative.

Jori Adkins, Secretary, Dome District Development Group (Oct. 14, 2014)

The Dome District Development Group’s Executive Board unanimously agrees that naming the unofficially named 21st Street park for George Weyerhaeuser, Jr. is a wonderful gesture and will give the park a focus since it is near and part of what Mr. Weyerhaeuser was instrumental in bringing to fruition and cared for deeply.

The Dome District sees its future as being a transit-oriented district with dense housing around a multimodal hub. It sees the parks of the Thea Foss Waterway as being their outdoor space, easy to access by walking, for kayaking, for visiting museums, walking the dog, and eating out. Because of this proximity, several past and/or present members have been involved with the FWDA either as a boardmember or on FWDA’s urban design review committee over the past 15 years. In these capacities, our members had gotten to know George and his quiet, yet strong, leadership in the growing of Foss Waterway development.

George Weyerhaeuser, Jr.’s commitment to the [Museum of Glass] and to the Foss and love of boating all bring us back to this park and to George. Naming the park after him is a fitting way to remember all that he helped to transform for the people of the City of Tacoma.

Thank you for the opportunity to express our thoughts on this request and to remember George with gratitude and honor.

Eric and Barbara Wood, colleague and friends, Weyerhaeuser Company (Oct. 20, 2014)

Please accept this note in support of naming a park on the Foss Waterway in honor of George H. Weyerhaeuser, Jr.

As a close colleague of George’s during the work week, a boating partner on weekends, and a personal friend, his interest in and devotion to the Foss Waterway development project was impressive. He was passionate about the value a revitalized waterway would make to all of Tacoma, and proud of the area as it progressed.

One of our favorite photos of George was of him playing with our German Shepherd puppy in our boat’s pilothouse while in the waterway. Nothing would be more appropriate than to have the park where she now plays named for him.

Gregg Reynolds, Board President, Tacoma Waterfront Association; Jayna Marshall, Administrative Director, Tacoma Waterfront Association (Oct. 20, 2014)

The Board of Directors and the membership of the Tacoma Waterfront Association support the proposal to name the park located on the Foss Waterway at 21st Street to honor George H. Weyerhaeuser, Jr. The mission of our organization, to promote and provide leadership on issues important to Tacoma’s waterfront, is an example of the guidance provided by Mr. Weyerhaeuser long before the inception of the Tacoma Waterfront Association.

As a member of a family with a long history of stewardship to our city, George was instrumental in the transformation of our waterfront. He was an advocate who led by example for the redevelopment, investments, and environmental success that exist on the Foss Waterway today.

The Tacoma Waterfront Association is proud to honor George H. Weyerhaeuser, Jr. by recommending this dedication to him. It will be a reminder to our organization to carry on his legacy.

Stephanie A. Stebich, Director, Tacoma Art Museum; Steve Barger, President of the Board, Tacoma Art Museum (Oct. 21, 2014)

On behalf of the board, staff, and volunteers of Tacoma Art Museum, I write to support your proposal to honor George H. Weyerhaeuser, Jr. with the naming of the park at the south end of the Foss Waterway.

This is a fitting tribute given George’s long tenure on your board and his advocacy for all things related to the waterfront and maritime industry in Tacoma. He was known for his love of boating and all things that enhanced the growth of the waterfront in his hometown of Tacoma. George was also an active supporter of the museums in Tacoma. He served as president of the board of the Museum of Glass and sought to foster greater collaboration among all the museums. With his wife, Kathy McGoldrick, as president of the board of the Tacoma Art Museum, he was also a regular visitor and generous donor to the art museum. George also supported the development of the Foss Waterway Seaport museum.

Although George’s untimely death prevented him from seeing all the things he championed blossom, creating a site to honor him near the things he loved is a most fitting tribute and one we endorse without reservation.

Kathryn Van Wagenen, Tacoma resident (Jan. 19, 2015)

Please consider this note as a written support for the proposal to name the Dock Street park after George H. Weyerhaeuser, Jr. — a very appropriate action in light of his committed work to develop and improve the Dock Street corridor.

Donald C. Johnson, Commission President, Port of Tacoma (Jan. 26, 2015)

The Port of Tacoma Commission is pleased to submit this letter in support of naming the park at the south end of the Foss Waterway after George H. Weyerhaeuser, Jr. George spent hours dedicated to the Waterway’s development, financial resources in support its facilities, as well as moments of reflection and enjoyment on the waters of Commencement Bay. Tacoma’s waters and development were of particular and special interest to him. George was a visionary leader as a FWDA board member and the chairman from 2004 to 2008. In these roles, he blended his strong sense of civic responsibility with his strategic business acumen to lead revitalization efforts of the Thea Foss Waterway.

George’s great appreciation for the arts led him to 14 years of dedicated board service with the Museum of Glass, where he advocated and fostered greater collaboration among all the museums. He was a regular visitor and generous donor to both the Foss Waterway Seaport museum and the Tacoma Art Museum.

George’s pride and stewardship of our city were part of who he was. He believed and lived his great-great grandfather Frederick Weyerhaeuser’s words, “This is not for us, nor for our children — but for our grandchildren.”

Naming a park on the Thea Foss Waterway after George Weyerhaeuser, Jr. will be an inspiration today and for future generations.

To read the Tacoma Daily Index‘s complete and comprehensive coverage of the proposed George H. Weyerhaeuser, Jr. Park along Thea Foss Waterway, click on the following links:

Todd Matthews is editor of the Tacoma Daily Index, an award-winning journalist, and author of A Reporter At Large and Wah Mee. His journalism is collected online at wahmee.com.