More Point Defiance Park improvements get started in 2020

Point Defiance Park

Owen Beach, new pedestrian trail and Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium parking updates coming

A major renovation of Owen Beach will begin this year after the Labor Day holiday. Construction is expected to last approximately a year as the popular waterfront destination undergoes $4 million in site improvements.

After a half-century in service, some of the current facilities are due for replacement. Worn out drainage systems from structures that were built in the 1950s often flood the lawn, and the community has identified a host of other needed improvements through the planning process known as Destination Point Defiance.

In addition to a new restroom building, picnic pavilion and children’s play area, construction updates are designed to improve traffic flow, parking, and recreation spaces. The updated design includes repositioning the lawn and moving pathways and the parking lot inland a bit, based on the latest projections for sea level rise in the coming decades. More details, including renderings, are available here.

owen beach schematic

“This will be a major update that serves generations to come,” said Debbie Terwilleger, director of planning and development for Metro Parks Tacoma. “Recognizing that shoreline conditions are changing, we needed to consider how future sea level rise could affect our existing facilities and our plans for updating Owen Beach.”

Owen Beach, which makes up approximately 1,000 feet of Point Defiance Park’s 3-mile shoreline, offers incredible views and wildlife experiences. It’s accessible by car from the park’s scenic Five Mile Drive, or pedestrians can walk along the waterfront promenade from the Boathouse Marina.

Metro Parks partnered with Washington Sea Grant (WSG) in the planning process for the Owen Beach improvements. Based at the University of Washington, WSG has conducted marine research projects for nearly 50 years. Data projections based on its research indicate the potential for Owen Beach buildings and parking in their current locations to be affected by rising seas as early as mid-century.

“Most of the facilities at Owen Beach were originally developed a half-century ago. It just makes sense to give thoughtful consideration to the latest research and to do all we can to protect the updated amenities we are building,” said Marty Stump, the park district’s deputy director of planning and development. “Our goal is to make sure the investments we make today continue serving our community 50 years from now.”

Metro Parks will share more details about park access as the start of construction nears this fall. In the meantime, Owen Beach will remain open through Labor Day, including kayak rentals and concessions. Picnic shelter rentals and other special use permits also remain available through then.

kayaking near owen beach

The Owen Beach update is one of several projects getting under way in 2020, continuing the Destination Point Defiance Master Plan improvements designed to enhance visitor experiences for the 3 million visitors who visit the park each year. Other projects planned to begin construction in 2020 include:

  • Loop Trail – a new 2.5-mile paved trail will enable pedestrians and cyclists to safely access the park’s many amenities separate from vehicles on Five Mile Drive and connect to the new Wilson Way bridge for access to the Ruston Way waterfront.
  • Zoo Parking – improvements to the overflow parking area will maximize use of the available space and enhance the safe use of this parcel.
  • Point Defiance Marina – updates and improvements are planned, including paint, siding and decking, among other things.

Point Defiance project updates will be posted regularly at DestinationPointDefiance.org.

Read more about the Owen Beach project

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Contact:

Hunter George, Metro Parks Tacoma, (253) 305-1065; hunterg@tacomaparks.com