Children and adults alike celebrated the opening of the $3.4 million East Bay Public Plaza on Saturday by kicking off their shoes and wading in a stream of reclaimed water.
“I think it’s pretty amazing and will bring a lot of kids to come in and play,” North Thurston kindergarten teacher Kyla Williams said while watching her daughters Brynn, 4, and Molli, 7, cool off in the new water feature.
The family was among a crowd of more than 100 people who turned out for the event, a moment LOTT Clean Water Alliance executive director Mike Strub said was six years in the making.
“Six years ago a group of us developed a vision for this area down here when it was still full of old falling-down buildings and contaminated soil,” Strub said to the crowd during opening ceremonies. “We overcame a lot of hurdles and processes clearing this area up.”
Staffers, elected officials and others involved in the project crowded around a ceremonial purple valve at the end of the ceremony. Each helped spin the valve; water billowed out of the stream shortly thereafter.
Children lined up down the stream, waiting for water to flow over their feet. Others dangled their legs over the side of a small wooden bridge.
The 0.8-acre park is in front of the newly built Hands On Children’s Museum off Marine Drive. The museum is expected to open Nov. 10.
The plaza features work from three artists, including a mosaic, archway and various bronze sculptures.
The new pathways, landscaped medians and playful sculptures of sea otters, salmon and seagulls are a far cry to the area’s industrial past.
“As a kid growing up in the ’40s and ’50s, this area was all industry,” said George Barner with the Olympia port commission. “It was grungy and gritty and a little greasy and kind of dirty.”
Now the park has benches, artfully designed garbage cans, new bathrooms and a stream featuring Class A reclaimed water, the highest quality.
The feature is the first of its kind in the state, according to Cynthia Pratt, president of the LOTT board of directors.
“This showcases how important our water is and how important water conservation is,” she said.
As a teacher, Williams appreciated the educational ties included in the landscaping.
The flower beds each have signs explaining how reclaimed water is being used throughout the plaza.
“I love that they can tie the two together,” Williams said. “Even adults are enjoying this.”