Kayak park taking shape on Tacoma's Foss waterway
December 28th, 2008 08:38 PM
Waterway Park doesn’t really exist yet, but rowers, kayakers and other nonmotorized boaters will soon be using it. Tacoma City Council members approved a contract last month for construction of a kayak float at the head of the Thea Foss Waterway that will provide boaters with long-awaited access to an easy launch site.
The nascent park was the subject of controversy last spring when the Children’s Museum of Tacoma briefly eyed it as a home for a new museum building. Museum officials backed away from the site after nonmotorized boaters and preservationists objected to building a large structure on space they said was supposed to remain free of new buildings.
The new float, which will replace a derelict float on the east side of the waterway beneath the Highway 509 bridge, will include a 12-foot by 85-foot pier and a low-profile launch pad that will accommodate everything from rowing shells and kayaks to dragon boats and outrigger canoes. It’s scheduled to be completed by the end of April.
The project will cost about $300,000. Half of the funding is coming from a state grant, and the rest from Metro Parks Tacoma and Foss Landing Marina & Boat Storage. The marina, which is adjacent to the planned Waterway Park, paid for new pilings.
The construction is a milestone for the boaters who have worked for years to make the park a reality.
Additional tasks will include cleaning up environmental contamination and creating a storage facility for recreational boaters. The estimated cost of the clean-up and construction of a new building is about $5 million, said Don Meyer, executive director of the Foss Waterway Development Authority.
Officials need funding to complete a study of using an existing structure known as the Berg Scaffolding building to store boats, Meyer said.
Even without those improvements, boaters will be able to park in an existing lot beneath the Highway 509 bridge to use the new float.
Todd Silver, an avid rower and proponent of the park, said development of Waterway Park and the addition of a public storage facility has the potential to make the waterway into a major attraction for nonmotorized boaters.
The Foss Waterway allows for year-round rowing, even when Commencement Bay is too stormy, he said. Silver said the addition of a public storage facility will turn a lot of weekend boaters into daily boaters if they don’t have to transport their craft on top of their cars.
“There’s not a vacant rack space on the West Coast,” Silver said. “We’re sitting on one of the most awesome venues in the world,” he said, adding that the waterway’s namesake started out renting rowboats.
“It’s gonna be fun,” Silver said.