What does a $198 Million Bond for Parks Get You?

On Tuesday, April 22, Tacoma residents will vote on whether or not to fund $198 million of park and zoo improvements and safety upgrades.

The Metro Parks Board of Commissioners voted last week to send the bond measure to the citizens.

In recent years the board has worked to develop a comprehensive plan for Tacoma's more than 3,000 acres of parks.

That $198 million breaks down as follows:

$65.4 million for Point Defiance improvements

  • Aquarium - Replacement of the failing 50+ year-old aquarium at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium with a "with a modest new Pacific Rim aquarium, including class space for students and the community to engage in environmental education."
  • Polar Bears - Critical renovations to the aging polar bear exhibit, to bring it up to modern standards and improve visitor experience
  • Rocky Shores - Critical renovations to the aging marine animal exhibit that houses walruses and others, to address health and safety conditions and improve visitor experience

$67.2 million for regional parks & attractions

  • Point Defiance Park - Parking and pedestrian safety improvements; event plaza; garden and bowl improvements; viewpoint upgrades; replace aging play equipment with  destination children’s playground; restroom upgrades; utilities and site upgrades; ADA accessibility; critical infrastructure improvements throughout the park.
  • Swan Creek Park - Continued implementation of 2011 Master Plan, including trail and pathway expansion and enhancements; interpretive signage; picnic shelter and seasonal restroom; and parking improvements.
  • Northwest Trek - Implement first phase of Master Plan, including construction of Kids Trek hands-on, nature-themed play area for children; pedestrian bridge to the Hellyer Center and animal facility upgrades.
  • Waterfront Parks & Facilities - structural upgrades, restoration, and refurbishment of boat lifts, gangways, accessibility and safety features, shoreline, habitat, and trail and pier improvements at Point Defiance Marina, Ruston Way parks, Dickman Mill Park, Titlow, Dash Point, and Thea Foss Waterway parks.
  • Peninsula at Point Defiance - Phase 1 matching funds for the creation of 12 acres of new public waterfront park between Ruston Way and Point Defiance.
  • Historical & Cultural Landmarks - development and first phase implementation of a new master plan for Fort Nisqually, including a period kitchen, volunteer and trade store area, and interpretive signage; structural restoration and preservation of the Point Defiance Lodge/Visitor Center and picnic shelters; and improvements in infrastructure, accessibility, and visitor experience at the Seymour Botanical Conservatory at Wright Park

$65.4 million for neighborhood parks, natural areas, & recreation facilities

  • Community Parks - continued master plan implementation; new playgrounds; assorted improvements to water quality, trails, picnic areas, playfields, community gardens, skate park, pool, and parking areas; and accessibility and other infrastructure improvements at Wapato, Norpoint, Jefferson, Franklin, and Stewart Heights parks. A new sprayground and infrastructure improvements at Lincoln Park.
  • Neighborhood Parks & Recreation Small Capital Improvement - utility and infrastructure renovations and replacements; safety and security upgrades to playgrounds, spraygrounds, pools, shelters, play courts, and other recreational amenities; improvements to provide expanded access to neighborhood and community parks, including Alderwood, Alling, Baltimore, Brown's Point, Charlotte's Blueberry Park, Cloverdale, Fern Hill, Ferry, Jane Clark, Lincoln Heights, Manitou, McKinley Playfield, McCarver, Neighbor's, North Slope Historic, Northeast Tacoma Playfield, Oakland-Madrona, Optimist, Peoples, Puget, Rogers, Sawyer Tot Lot, Sheridan, South, Stanley Playfield, STAR Center, and Vassault parks.
  • Community Centers - Building and pool upgrades to support program delivery and accessibility at the Center at Norpoint and Peoples Center/Tacoma Nature Center. Partnership funds to help build a new community center to provide services to the Eastside.
  • Sports Complexes & Athletic Fields - Partnership funds for improvements at the South End Recreation & Adventure Campus, including multi-use sports fields and field house, event pavilion, farmers' market amenities, and a new Outdoor Adventure Challenge Course. Improvements to the Heidelberg Davis Athletic Complex and Peck Field, and coordination and participation with the Tacoma School District for the renovation and creation of athletic fields for interscholastic and recreational sports activities. Critical infrastructure improvements to course irrigation and cart paths, and partnership to develop a regional golf learning center at Meadow Park Golf Course.
  • Open Space, Trails, & Natural Areas - Improvements to Parks District open spaces and natural areas through environmental cleanup and native habitat restoration, and nature education opportunities, including Ryan's Park, China Lake Natural Area, McKinley Park, Oak Tree Park, and Puget Creek Natural Area. Developing, improving, and expanding trails and other infrastructure at Garfield Park Natural Area, and Wapato Hills Park Natural Area. Matching funds toward development of pedestrian and bicycle trail systems through projects including Prairie Line Trail, Schuster Parkway Promenade, and Pipeline Trail.
  • Land Acquisition- Partnership and matching grant funds as needed for providing infill of existing park areas and new acquisitions to meet identified gaps in adequate level of services to the community.
  • System Efficiencies - Technology upgrades to improve the delivery of services to the public. Updates to maintenance facilities. Retirement of existing debt.

Download a pdf with more details on these projects here and a map of highlighted capital bond projects here. Read the full Metro Parks press release on the upcoming Parks Bond vote here.

And find a map of Pierce County ballot drop-off stations here

$198 million is a lot of money, but it also sounds like it would fund a lot of improvements to our parks system. What do you think; would it be money well-spent?

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NameSteve Wells

Passage of this bond would do as much for quality of life (and associated property values) as almost any other investment we can make. We took care of our schools. This is a great next step towards building a vital Tacoma. MetroParks has done a great job of ensuring every neighborhood is better served. They have shown with the 2005 bond that they can deliver on their promises. Details I like include improvement of access to the waters of Commencement Bay and the addition of more all-weather play fields. Those take advantage of our natural assets (and acknowledge our weather realities!). I also am excited for the additions to our regional treasure at Point Defiance!

March 6, 2014 at 9:50 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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fred davie

Property taxes are ALREADY too high in Tacoma. Most of the stuff on the Metro Parks laundry list are just wants…they aren’t things we need at all. I’ll provide two examples. We don’t need a state of the art east side community center. There are already community centers in Tacoma. People can just use those. My second example is Pt. Defiance Zoo. A city with a population of just 200,000 doesn’t need to provide an extravagant regional attraction/ theme park. This is all pie in the sky. The new attractions won’t last very long….look at Rocky Shores. The taxpayers just bought that 20 years ago. I don’t know if it’s even paid off. We’re now learning that the hugely expensive Rocky Shores was entirely misplanned and now has to be torn out. Meanwhile, as property taxes skyrocket people find they can no longer afford to qualify for home loans so they end up renting or moving to less expensive areas.

March 6, 2014 at 5:57 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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I’m really excited to the improvements in Peninsula Park or Frank Herbert Park if the name change goes through.  I’m always quite pleased with what Metro Parks does and they use a lot of this money for a local match for grant dollars to get the extra bang for the buck.  Our greenspaces and attractions put us on the map and beautify our neighborhoods so I’ll gladly be voting for this measure.

March 6, 2014 at 11:37 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Less for Point Defiance, more for local parks.  PD already has enough amenities.

March 7, 2014 at 9:18 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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If I had $198m to spend on capital projects in Tacoma, only about a third would go to parks.  I’d rather have money go to building out UW Tacoma.  But, it would be nice to see all this stuff done.

March 7, 2014 at 9:32 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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William Chunyk

198,000,000.00!  R U kidding me!  Where does 198 million go, what do we get?  Probably a greater need for more money to maintain what the 198 million buys and it goes to inflated union wages for labor, city and county pensions that are all ready underfunded.  Give us a break, cut some items,  most parks are underutilized now, do we need more?  I personally don’t think so.  Its never enough, keep asking for more before you even finish spending what we’ve all ready given.  Too much, your asking for too much!

March 7, 2014 at 9:38 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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