More space to play at Chambers Bay

Popular recreation spot: Additional open shoreline coming to Chambers Creek area

August 13, 2010 

One week from today, Chambers Creek Properties will take a 10-day break from business as usual to host golf’s most prestigious amateur event, the 2010 U.S. Amateur Championship. But within a few weeks of reopening to the public, the lure of Chambers Creek is going to become only greater when two miles of formerly inaccessible shoreline becomes available to outdoor enthusiasts.

If you’re one of the 2,000 people who walk the trails at Chambers Creek on an average day, you know why the site is so popular – as do the golfers, kite flyers, soccer players, diners, skim boarders, labyrinth walkers, wildlife watchers and dog owners. As Pierce County public development manager Joe Scorcio says, “Everything here is about getting people out of their cars.”

If you’ve never been there, you still have seven days to acquaint yourself with what CCP has to offer. At least you can sound knowledgeable to your out-of-town golf-loving friends who might see Chambers Bay links on national TV.

There’s a little bit of something for everyone on the 930-acre property on the water just north of Steilacoom. The golf course takes up 270 acres of that and the wastewater treatment plant another 200. But the remainder is yours for a stimulating walk, this-is-why-we-live-here views, a paddle in a shady creek or just a place to run Fido.

So, here’s your guide to all the glories beyond golf (present and future) of CCP. Get there now, or wait until the hubbub dies down. Just get there. Because if you don’t, you are missing out on one of the best reasons for living in South Sound.

LOOP THE LOOP

The 3.5-mile trail that circles the golf course is actually two trails. The Grandview Trail (opened in 2000) runs along the top of the ridge and affords panoramic views of the Sound. The Soundview trail (opened in 2007) includes the section along the Sound and the two hill climbs. Those climbs have an average 10 percent grade. If that’s something you want to work up to, try this: Decide between the high road (Grandview – relatively flat) and the low road (Soundview – slightly hilly) and turn around when you reach of the hill climbs/descents. When you have those under your belt you can tackle the lung burning, muscle searing full loop.

While the loop is the crowd-drawing centerpiece of CCP’s trail system, it’s not the only path worthy of your Nikes. And when the system is fully built out by 2030, there will be 20 miles of trail (both paved and unpaved) to wander on.

WHAT THE MEADOW SWEETLY BROUGHT FORTH

When finished, CCP will have three meadows – large lawns, really, with paths around the grassy areas.

The 6-acre North Meadow is the first thing you see at CCP when driving in from the north on Grandview Drive. There’s not much there, but if $160,000 can be raised, the 12,000-square-foot Playground by the Sound will open. It will feature swings, monkey bars, nets, a climbing wall and a suspension bridge named Galloping Gertie.

The 11-acre Central Meadow is accessed from the main entrance that heads downhill from the clubhouse. It is designed around the historical mining remnants of the former gravel pit. It’s been used for concerts and other events and is a popular spot for kite flying. There’s a quarter-mile-long tunnel that runs under the meadow, but it’s inaccessible to the public.

The 30-acre South Meadow will open after 2015.

HIT THE BRIDGE

It’s been a bittersweet attraction since the lower part of CCP opened in 2007: Two miles of saltwater shoreline but no way to get there. It’s like someone built a candy store that’s never open. The reason? 80 trains a day run the tracks along the shore, some moving at 70 mph. As Sunday’s fatal accident at Titlow Beach showed, trains and pedestrians don’t mix.

Everything changes in September when a new 950-foot-long bridge linking the Central Meadow to the shoreline will open. Seen from the air, the new $3.5 million bridge looks like a boomerang, one end stuck in the grass, the other in the Sound. After crossing over the tracks, a wide turnout on the bridge offers expansive views up and down the Sound – plus great train watching. Two staircases lead down to the beach. Eventually, when funding is approved, the bridge will extend another 350 feet into the Sound and include a small floating dock.

LIFE’S A BEACH

That bridge will deliver you to what planners say are two acres of “full-time beach” – beach that will not drown under a flood tide. Trot south one mile from the bridge and you’ll find yourself with 14 acres of full-time beach. Unlike North Beach, South Beach has honest-to-goodness sand. Just be aware that high tide might leave you stuck on South Beach longer than you planned. Eventually, South Beach will have its own access point and parking area.

UNLEASH THE HOUNDS

For a place that’s full of tempting flying balls, CCP is amazingly dog friendly. Canines are allowed on all trails but must be kept on leash. There’s a fenced, temporary one-acre off-leash dog area adjacent to the Central Meadow. Thoughtful human companions have left office cooler-sized bottles of water. When the new bridge opens in September, canines can shed their leashes on the beach south of the bridge. Dogs must remain on leash north of the bridge.

UP A CREEK

Trail access to CCP’s namesake, Chambers Creek, is limited to two short stubs at either end. That’ll be solved by 2020 when a 21/2-mile trail connecting those two ends is finished. A trail starts at Chambers Creek Road across from the dam and goes upstream half a mile. Skim boarders use the trail to access their favorite sites.

At the high end of the canyon, near Bridgeport Way West, access is obtained at University Place’s Kobayashi Property. Parking is extremely limited there, but the preserve is a little slice of heaven where Chambers Creek, Leach Creek and a gurgling stream meet up.

A short trail follows the creek downstream through a leafy green tunnel that has a different feel from the lower end of the canyon.

When the unpaved nature trail through the canyon is finished, it will be a crowning gem of South Sound walks. In the meantime, look forward to a paved trail opening in 2011 that will connect lower Chambers Creek Road to Grandview Drive. Access to the canyon will remain open during the Amateur.

PLAY AND PURPOSE

Two multipurpose playfields between 64th Street West and Chambers Creek Road, when not being rented for soccer, are popular sites for pick-up games. They’ll be closed during the Amateur, but the trails surrounding them and the nearby Environmental Services Building will be open.

Near the playfields is a labyrinth modeled after the famous example at France’s Chartres Cathedral. The contemplative space is made of tumbled stone and located on a small hill. On a clear day, it has a view of Mount Rainier.

PARK AND WALK

There are three places to park at CCP: parking lots at the North Meadow, the Central Meadow and the Environmental Services Building at 64th Street West and Grandview. (You’ll also find restrooms at those parking lots.) There also is street parking all along Grandview Drive, where you can easily access the Grandview Trail.

Chambers Creek Properties

Where: 6320 Grandview Drive, University Place

Hours: Dawn to dusk

Information: www.piercecountywa.org/ccp; www.2010usamateur.com

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