Titlow Park shoreline restoration just about complete

Titlow Park & Lodge

titlow kays house

Native plants still to come; Hidden Beach trail has reopened.

A $597,000 project to restore the shoreline, improve fish and wildlife habitat and expand the public recreation area at Titlow Park is nearly done and visitors have more room to explore via the adjacent Hidden Beach trail.

The nonprofit South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group spearheaded the project, which entailed demolition of a vacant beach house and removal of contaminated soils so the area can be returned to a natural state.

What was informally known as Kay’s house was located near the south end of the trail, north of Steamers Seafood Café. The single-story house was once the home of a Titlow Park caretaker and his wife.

Late last year, a contractor razed the house, its garage, an attached boathouse, a bulkhead, and took out an underground septic system and storage tanks.

Additionally, soil contaminated by airborne pollutants from the former Asarco copper smelter in Ruston was removed from the site. The house also contained harmful asbestos components.

The embankment where the house stood has been reshaped to a more natural slope. The plan is to stabilize it with native plants as soon as weather permits, said Mary Anderson, Metro Parks natural resources manager. And while visitors are encouraged to explore the area, they’re also asked to be mindful of the fencing that will be installed to protect the bank as new vegetation takes hold. Eventually, a split-rail fence will replace orange safety barriers.

In 1969, Metro Parks Tacoma acquired the house, which has been vacant since 2004. One of the conditions of the acquisition was that its occupants, James and Kay Irwin, be allowed to reside there as long as they lived.

The house removal project is part of Metro Parks’ 2010 Titlow Park master plan. Besides demolition, the plan calls for eventual creation of a picnic meadow and viewing deck on the site. This project did not include funds for those future improvements, but additional positive changes regarding Titlow Park will be announced by Metro Parks soon.

The South Sound Salmon Enhancement Group received money for the project from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, by way of the Puget Sound Marine and Nearshore Grant Program, administered by the state Recreation and Conservation Office. Metro Parks contributed $75,000 derived from capital improvement bonds approved by voters in 2014.

For more information, go to metroparkstacoma.org.