A new attraction that took 4 years to realize opened near Tacoma, WA on July 6, 2019. Called Dune Peninsula at Point Defiance, this new 11 acre city park is very close to 760 acre Point Defiance Park’s formal rose and rhododendron gardens, an aquarium, the excellent and scenic Fort Nisqually Living History Museum, a zoo, and deep forest that reminds me of Vancouver’s Stanley Park.
But Dune Peninsula is more than a new park. It took $75 million to create it on a one-time superfund cleanup site. Indeed, this was a toxic wasteland where a smelter was dumping slag that included lead and arsenic into Puget Sound. The ASARCO copper smelter was once on this point. Special care had to be taken to turn this site into viable park land where people can stroll and climb and pedal. Frank Herbert, who wrote Dune, was born in Tacoma. He was familiar with this smelter and its ruination of the local landscape because it influenced his writing. This fact is acknowledged by naming the major footpath that winds through Dune Peninsula the Frank Herbert Trail.
Also new is the 605-foot-long Wilson Way Bridge that connects this new park to the Ruston Way Waterfront with its movie theater, restaurants, and shops. In the park are 2 new hills with big steps to their tops. They reminded me of Mayan temples. Close to the steps were public slides, but when Ruth and I were there the rentable 8 passenger bikes seemed far more popular. There were several of these on The Herbert Trail as were skateboards and scooters. There is no formal playground because the entire park is a playground. Everyone there, including 2 gardeners, seemed to be enjoying it. Ample free parking has been provided near its entrance where the only sculpture created for the park, “Alluvion” by Adam Kuby, stands to cleverly remind visitors of this point’s notorious past. Nearby is a huge industrial pot turned on its side. Several children were enjoying climbing into and out of it.
What is old are the larger park nearby, the adjacent Tacoma Yacht Club boat basin, and the Vashon Island ferry terminal. We sat for a long time watching a ferry cross Puget Sound and enter its dock. We could see the top of this ferry and most of Dune Peninsula from atop the artificial hill.
The landscapers have planted natural grasses and other plants to re-cover this point. I especially enjoyed the blooming wildflowers and the little bird bathing in the runoff from this new park’s watering system. Everyone involved has done a great job of turning an industrial eyesore into usable green space.