Get involved in Tacoma’s waterfront park projects

Photo of waterfront along Ruston Way

The waterfront along Ruston Way in Tacoma.

If you enjoy Tacoma’s waterfront parks, get more involved in the planning process! Metro Parks Tacoma provided information about planned improvements for some waterfront parks — Dickman Mill, Ruston Way, and Foss Waterway at a March 15 open house at the Foss Waterway Seaport. Many people attended and provided input on the plans. There are still opportunities to get involved! Here’s a quick overview of some of the key projects discussed at the open house:

Dickman Mill

Dickman Mill project explained at open house

Metro Parks described the Dickman Mill project.

Metro Parks will restore the huge head saw that worked in the old Dickman Mill and publicly display it in Dickman Mill Park along Ruston Way. The expanded park would include a plaza area to view the head saw. This head saw is the last known to operate in Washington. Metro Parks gave an overview of the project, including the preferred location for the head saw.

Liz Satterthwaite with Engage Northwest represents the Tacoma Waterfront Association on the Dickman Mill Steering Committee. See Liz’s previous blog post about this project.

Envision Our Waterfront

The City of Tacoma and Metro Parks Tacoma are starting a project to envision the future of Ruston Way in the next 50-100 years. Public input is important! The City and Metro Parks are interested in knowing what people like about Ruston Way and what improvements would be needed. They are looking at infrastructure, art, activities and more. To learn more and be involved, visit the project webpage and sign up for Metro Parks’ email updates.

Envision our waterfront-display board

Foss Waterway projects

The Foss Waterway Development Authority and Metro Parks plan to build two new parks on the Foss Waterway: Central Park and Waterway Park.

Central Park would extend the public esplanade, create a new walkway to connect Dock Street to the waterfront, and include a play mound and a smokestack-looking tower inspired by the area’s industrial heritage. Waterway Park would turn the existing Berg Scaffolding building into a boathouse with restrooms and boat storage for outrigger canoes, dragon boats, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards. See Metro Parks webpage for more information about these projects.

Other waterfront park projects

Waterfront parks are true gems in Tacoma! Thanks to voters saying yes to park bonds in 2014, Metro Parks Tacoma is improving many waterfront parks now, including Titlow and the most popular park in the South Sound — Point Defiance Park. I plan to provide more information about these park improvements in a future blog post.

For more information

  • Presentation slides and live video from Metro Parks Tacoma’s March 15 waterfront open house is available on their website.

— Liz Satterthwaite, Engage Northwest.

Serving on Metro Parks steering committee for the Dickman Mill Park project

Liz Satterthwaite with Engage Northwest serves on Metro Parks Tacoma‘s steering committee for the Dickman Mill Park Expansion and Head Saw project. The huge saw that worked in the old Dickman Mill would be included in an expanded Dickman Mill Park along Ruston Way. The project combines history, environment, recreation, art and more.

Project Background

Photo of Dickman Mill Park

The beach area in Dickman Mill Park along Ruston Way.

To celebrate its 100th anniversary in Tacoma, Cambia Health Solutions generously gave a $2.9 million gift to fund the restoration of the historic Dickman Mill head saw and expand the park. Metro Parks will restore this historic head saw — the last known to operate in Washington — and publicly display it in Dickman Mill Park along Ruston Way in Tacoma. The expanded park would include a plaza area to view the head saw.  The project is expected to take about two to three years to complete.

The Dickman Lumber Mill operated on the Tacoma waterfront along Ruston Way for approximately 80 years. One of many lumber mills along the waterfront, the mill closed in 1974 and burned in a fire in 1979. Now the site is a park that includes a beach, wetlands, pilings, concrete foundations, and a sign describing the history of the mill.

Photo of Dickman Mill Steering Committee Meeting

The Steering Committee provides input on the locations for the head saw at Dickman Mill Park.

Steering Committee and community involvement

In its first meeting in January 2018, the steering committee reviewed and commented on three alternative locations for the head saw within Dickman Mill Park. Previously, the design team had evaluated these alternatives based on criteria such as historic integrity, visitor experience, safety, permitting and mitigation, cost and others.  The steering committee also provided feedback based on these criteria. In future meetings, the committee will review and comment on more detailed designs and other considerations. The community will also be invited to review and comment on the project in open house meetings.

Liz represents the Tacoma Waterfront Association on this steering committee.

More information about the Dickman Mill Park project: 

Celebrating natural areas at Sehmel Homestead Park

Photo of people walking on trails at Sehmel Homestead ParkOur friends at Great Peninsula Conservancy (GPC) will hold a potluck picnic and guided trail walk for GPC members and friends at Sehmel Homestead Park on Sunday, August 27. The potluck starts at 1:30 p.m. at Volunteer Vern Pavilion, followed by a guided walk of the park’s natural areas at 2:30 p.m. Please RSVP to

As you explore Sehmel Homestead Park, please take a look at the new interpretive signs. Engage Northwest previously developed an interpretive sign plan for Sehmel Homestead Park’s natural areas. Joanne Tejeda is the artist (please see the Instagram post below):

For more information, please see GPC’s Facebook event. Check out activities and events at Sehmel Homestead Park and other Gig Harbor parks at PenMet Parks.

Explore Sehmel Homestead Park, Sept. 10

Explore Sehmel Homestead Park and learn about its history and nature at a free event on Sept. 10 at 11 a.m. PenMet Parks and the Washington Native Plant Society will lead a guided walk through the park’s trails.

For more information, see Sehmel Homestead Park’s Facebook event or a News Tribune article.

Photo of walking tour at Sehmel Homestead Park

Learning about the meadow at Sehmel Homestead Park in Gig Harbor

If you can’t attend this event, please visit another time and explore the park’s natural areas!

Update: Over 40 people attended the walking tour and learned about family life on the homestead, plants and trees along the trail and ways to get involved in the park. Thank you for participating! Here are some tour pictures.

Disclaimer: Engage Northwest is a communications consultant with the Great Peninsula Conservancy on a similar project at Sehmel Homestead Park.

Celebrate National Park Service’s 100th birthday with free admission to parks

To celebrate its 100th birthday, the National Park Service will offer free admission to all national parks from August 25 – 28. Many parks will feature special activities and ranger-led walks. Visitors are encouraged to share pictures with hashtags #NPS100 and #FindYourPark.

An astronaut — Jeff Williams — shares this unusual view of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound from space:

Which are your favorite parks to explore? What do you like to do in our national parks?

For more information