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Metro Parks Today: December 2016

December 8, 2016


Metro Parks staff understand not everyone can go to a public meeting. That’s why we also use surveys and encourage emails and phone calls to our project managers when we undertake capital improvements.

Still, public meetings can be great venues for discussion. There is something Norman Rockwell-ish about them. I spent some time in the Northeast before returning to Tacoma two years ago and was always impressed by the “town hall” approach. It can encourage honest dialogue.

Regardless of format, Metro Parks puts a lot of effort into encouraging public participation. When we say we want to know what’s on your mind, and we want you to influence the process, we mean it.

Last week, about 50 citizens visited the Point Defiance Pagoda to talk with project managers about ways to improve parking, transportation and traffic in general in Point Defiance Park. Staff and consultants gathered the input they gave and will use it to help plan improvements to parking.

Staff also heard from many residents of the City of Ruston. Though Ruston is not in the park district, it borders Point Defiance Park. That makes Ruston one of Metro Parks’ neighbors.

Many had questions about the status of the waterfront and peninsula construction taking place in the park’s “Triangle.” They wanted to know how high and for how long the dirt will be stored there, and they wanted to hear about long-term plans for the area. Some had suggestions for improving communications, and some want to make sure that City of Ruston staff and regular citizens can be involved in future planning. We appreciated the thoughtful discussion.

You can find an update of the Triangle’s status on That’s a URL we began using two years ago as a go-to place for updates, project summaries, time frames and illustrations for everything regarding the long-term improvements to Point Defiance Park. That includes not only remediation of contaminated soil in the Triangle but also construction of the “missing link” trail between Ruston Way and the park, transformation of the Asarco slag pile peninsula into an 11-acre park, and the opening in 2018 of a new Pacific Seas Aquarium.

Beyond the Triangle or, though, you can find out virtually anything about the park district by checking our  website or just asking. Metro Parks is a public agency, and the people who work throughout the district take transparency seriously. It doesn’t hurt that more than a few of us in the communications offices are former journalists who care about making sure people are informed.

Here are some of the best ways to stay up to date and get involved in Metro Parks planning and improvements:

  • Check your local media. Newspapers and television stations cover us and often run advance stories of public meetings, open houses and workshops in addition to stories about exciting programs and exhibits.
  • Check the website. We know that in Tacoma especially digital access is not something guaranteed. Still, we do our best to create useful project status pages such as, and, and to add project information on individual facility pages (check the “Parks & Facilities” tab and look under “Parks,” for example). We often use the website to post online surveys, such as this one you can take about Point Defiance parking and traffic management right now.
  • Sign up for email updates. We maintain email lists for people who want to stay up to date on Destination Point Defiance and other projects and often send announcements (or “e-blasts,” as we call them around here) of opportunities for public engagement.
  • Check your mailbox. We often mail postcards to announce public meetings and open houses related to construction projects. These most often go out to a 500-foot radius from the site. In the case of some larger projects, we mail to 1,000 feet.
  • Call or email us. We keep a lengthy  phone list online, including lines to our most senior directors. My number, by the way, is (253) 305-1092, and my email address is I might not be able to answer every question right away, but can find out who can.
  • Look for us. A few months ago, for example, one of the project managers charged with shepherding improvements to Owen Beach went to the beach with her consultants to interview people about the area and get share some details of the project.
  • Go to your neighborhood council meetings. Metro Parks has a team of community liaisons who go to these City of Tacoma-established councils and make themselves available to talk about Metro Parks activities.
  • Ask for a presentation from Metro Parks. Our staff can speak with your groups not just about capital projects but park management, horticulture, volunteer opportunities and other topics. Ask Chief Public Affairs Officer Hunter George to arrange a meeting. He runs the speakers bureau and has spoken to Rotary clubs, civic groups, a retirement home and more. Presentations are like mini-public meetings; you have the opportunity to ask questions and give input.
  • Look for us on social media. Metro Parks is on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
  • Go to public meetings when you can. They are great ways to get involved.
  • And if you really want to get involved, consider volunteering, including serving on an advisory council. We currently have openings on the Active Lifestyles & Community Wellness committee and the Business & Responsive Agency committee.

How else can we help you stay informed? Let us know.

Next year, we’ll have some major projects coming to fruition and many exciting programs in Recreation and throughout the district. We’ll also have more opportunities for you to weigh in and get involved. In the meantime, enjoy these photos from last weekend’s Holiday Cruise for People with Disabilities.

Specialized Recreation Holiday Cruise 2016

Thompson profile
Michael Thompson is public information officer
of Metro Parks Tacoma.

Contact him at (253) 305-1092 or