Grants will support Wright Park improvements, Wapato Park purchase

The Washington State Recreation and Conservation Funding Board approved grants for projects across the state to build parks and trails, and protect disappearing farmland and wildlife habitat, according to a statement released today.

On Thursday, the state funding board approved grants for 106 projects in 28 of the state’s 39 counties to be funded, the last step in a two-year grant process.

Tacoma and Pierce County are slated to receive $5,011,521.

The projects were seeking funding under two grant programs: the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, which was created by the legislature in 1990 in response to increasing public demand for outdoor recreation land and growing concerns about loss of wildlife habitat, and the Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account, which was created by the legislature in 1984 to ensure that money generated from waterfront lands and the beds of rivers and lakes was used to protect and enhance those lands.

The board received 291 grant applications requesting more than $221 million. The grants were evaluated by panels of experts against a dozen different criteria, ranging from the need for a project, to its cost-effectiveness, to how well it was designed, to the level of demonstrated community support. Funding was awarded to only 36 percent of the projects because of limited funding.

The Recreation and Conservation Funding Board was established in 1964 by voters to finance recreation and conservation projects throughout the state.

Here are some of the projects that received grant funding in Tacoma and Pierce County:

1. Pierce County / $750,000 — Building the Chambers Creek North Dock and Pedestrian Overpass — The Pierce County Public Works Department will use this grant to extend an elevated pedestrian overpass over the Burlington Northern-Sante Fe railroad, which separates the beach from the uplands in University Place. This project will provide public access to more than 2 miles of Puget Sound shoreline that has not been open to the public for more than 100 years. The county will build two sets of stairs to provide direct access to the beach. The beach is on a small portion of a beautifully reclaimed former gravel mine that offers views of the islands, the Olympic Mountains, south Puget Sound and the Chambers Creek properties. The overpass will provide the only public access to this beach other than by boat. The closest public beach is 3.2 miles south of this project and is separated by Chambers Bay. Pierce County will contribute $750,000 in cash and federal funding. This grant is from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program.

2. Pierce County / $1,687,500 — Buying Devil’s Head — Pierce County Parks and Recreation will use this grant to buy 94 acres at the southern end of the Key Peninsula, known as Devil’s Head. The property has about 1 mile of high quality Puget Sound shoreline. The county plans to use the site for non-motorized boating, hiking and beachcombing, as well as protecting wildlife habitat. Turning Devil’s Head into a local park will preserve salmon habitat, wetlands, bald eagle nesting sites, bluffs and forest. It also will preserve a scenic viewpoint of Mount Rainier and the Olympic Mountains. The site is also part of two important trail systems — the southern end of the Head-to-Toe trail system and the Cascadia Marine Trail. Pierce County will contribute $1.6 million. This grant is from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program.

3. Tacoma Metropolitan Park District / $463,788 — Acquiring Property within Wapato Park — The Tacoma Metropolitan Park District will use two grants to buy .22 acre, the last remaining privately owned waterfront property in Wapato Park, and complete a pathway along the lake. For the past 22 years, the park district has worked to purchase privately owned land within the park. At 34 acres, Wapato Lake is the largest lake in the city. The land to be purchased will provide the public with the missing 45-foot link along the shoreline that will enable the district to complete a multi-purpose trail system around the lake and provide additional access for fishing, paddle boats and model boat racing. Work will include planting native plants to protect the shoreline and enhance water quality. The park district will contribute $731,663 from voter-approved bonds.

4. Tacoma Metropolitan Park District / $426,683 — Adding a Spray Ground and Playground in Wright Park — The Tacoma Metropolitan Park District will use this grant to replace a 50-year-old wading pool with a spray ground and install a new playground in Wright Park. The park hosts many community events and is the location for the summer playground and free lunch program, serving about 4,000 children each summer. The spray ground will provide a safe and unique water play area. The park district will contribute $1,075,149 in voter-approved bonds, cash donations and a private grant. This grant is from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program.

5. Tacoma Metropolitan Park District / $350,000 — Creating the Children’s Nature Exploration Area — The Tacoma Metropolitan Park District will use this grant to create a unique nature-themed playground at the Tacoma Nature Center. The nature center serves a regional audience with more than 65,000 visitors annually. The playground, being called the Children’s Nature Exploration Area, will serve children ages 2-12. It will provide a wide variety of play elements, all designed to mimic the natural environment. Elements will include a water feature and stream, Tree House, Boulder Scramble, Drumlin Slide, Snag Climb, Bridges and Log Crossing. The playground will not only serve the children from the surrounding neighborhood where there is a deficiency of playgrounds but will also give Nature Center visitors an opportunity to burn off some extra energy playing, before settling down to participate in the center’s many environmental education programs. The park district will contribute $456,476 in voter-approved bonds and cash donations. This grant is from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program.

A complete list of grant recipients is online here —