A steady stream of people turned out late Wednesday afternoon and into early evening at the Harbor History Museum to learn more about Gig Harbor’s Donkey Creek project.
More than 100 attendees showed up during the course of the three-hour event to learn more about the year-long, nearly $5 million project, the last such chance before work is scheduled to begin Friday.
The Donkey Creek Restoration and Transportation Project will include the construction of an 80-foot pedestrian bridge on North Harborview Drive to open up the creek that runs through the culvert underneath.
The project also calls for a footpath under the bridge to run from the newly exposed Austin Estuary to Donkey Creek Park, rendering Austin Street and North Harborview Drive as one-way avenues.
Finally, a one-way bridge for cars and a 14-foot-wide pedestrian pathway will be built.
City officials at the open house were pleased with the impending start of project construction.
“This is finally the really fun part,” senior engineer Emily Appleton said.
“It’s exciting,” senior planner Jennifer Kester added. “This has been more than 10 years in the making since it was first visioned.”
Members of the public also were glad work will be under way soon.
“I think it’s a good idea,” said Karen Kiehlmeir, citing plans for daylighting Donkey Creek.
Kelly Perrow, wife of Gig Harbor City Council member Michael Perrow, also was looking forward to the daylighting of the creek.
“I think it’s great,” she said, holding 10-month-old son, Ryan, adding daylighting the creek and restoring the estuary will improve the fish habitat.
A new Gig Harbor resident also happy to see the project coming to fruition.
“I’ve been watching it,” said Tom Gray, who relocated to Gig Harbor from Houston nine months ago. “It will be a nice experience.”
There will, however, be some inconveniences that travelers will have to deal with while construction is going on, although access to local businesses and residences will be maintained at all times.
Phase 1 of the project, from March through June, will see Austin Street closed for the duration of work, which will include waterline installation and new road construction with parking, sidewalks and landscaping on the park side of the street.
North Harborview Drive will be closed for sewer work for several hours each day for about a week, with detours onto Burnham Drive.
Work on North Harborview Drive will be done between 5 a.m. and 2 p.m., Appleton said, in order to avoid construction during evening hours and peak commute times.
“So, there will be a week’s worth of compromising,” she said.
Harborview Drive between Austin Estuary Park and Donkey Creek Park is to include front improvements, widened sidewalks and road repaving. Paving work will require short-term lane closures for about two days.
Phase 2 of the project is slated to begin in June and will mean North Harborview Drive between Austin Street and Harborview Drive will be closed for the duration of the project, which will include new bridge construction, road improvements and widened sidewalks.
Other plans for the second phase include:
• Creek and estuary restoration between Gig Harbor Bay and Donkey Creek Park. Estuary excavation will be completed in two stages — wall construction and excavation for the final stream. Once that process is complete, Donkey Creek and the restored estuary will flow freely under the newly constructed bridge and to the harbor.
• A pedestrian trail between Austin Estuary Park and Donkey Creek Park will be constructed.
• Landscaping will be done in the restoration areas.
The project is scheduled for to be completed in March 2014.
Appleton cautioned the project’s construction schedule depends on the weather and other limitations.
“With construction,” she said, “there are always unknowns.”
The Donkey Creek Restoration and Transportation Project is funded by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Grant, a U.S. Housing and Urban Development Neighborhood Initiative Grant and city funds.
Those who would like to receive information and construction updates on the project or be included on a stakeholders list can provide contact information to Maureen Whitaker by calling 253-853-7618 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
For routine project updates and notice, visit www.donkeycreekrestoration.com.
Reporter Brett Davis can be reached at 253-358-4151 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_brett.