Here are four more reasons why Metro Parks of Tacoma should support the campaign to name the emerging parkland on the old Asarco smelter site after internationally known science fiction author Frank Herbert:
It has strong local connections. Tacoma may have been his birthplace (in 1920), but the author of the top-selling science fiction book “Dune” has connections to the entire region. In his biography of his father, Brian Herbert said Frank Herbert spent much time in Burley on Henderson Bay. From there he ventured out in rowboats, canoes and sailboats throughout the Puget Sound.
Herbert’s parents also lived on the East Side of Tacoma, in South Tacoma, on Day Island and in Highline where they helped start the Spanish Castle dance hall.
Herbert and his second wife Beverly Forbes spent their honeymoon as fire watchers in a lookout on Kelly Butte near Lister. Later they lived in several other South Sound locales, including houses over the water on Marine View Drive and in an obscure part of what is now Federal Way called Healy Palisades, where he wrote much of his first book, “The Dragon in the Sea” on a desk made of drift wood gathered from the beach.
It was in Longbranch where he started writing “Dune.”
It has strong global connections. “What ‘Lord of the Rings’ is to fantasy, ‘Dune’ is to science fiction,” said Brian Herbert when we talked about the park-renaming campaign last week. Familial bias aside, that claim is shared by other lovers of the genre.
There are “Dune” fan clubs around the world and an online petition drive (www.ipetitions.com/petition/frank-herbert-park-in-tacoma) is getting wide circulation. The two men who launched the campaign — Metro Parks Commissioner Erik Hanberg and Tacoma Landmarks Commissioner Daniel Rahe — hoped for 50 signatures but have already attracted more than 350.
It fits with the theme that is Point Ruston, the reclamation of an industrial wasteland. In his biography “Dreamer of Dune,” Brian Herbert wrote that his father’s environmental awareness began in Tacoma.
“Dad was a daily witness to conditions in Tacoma, which in the 1950s was known as one of the nation’s most polluted cities, largely due to a huge smelter whose stack was visible from all over the city, a stack that belched filth into the sky,” Brian wrote. That “contributed to his resolve that something had to be done to save the Earth.
“This became, perhaps, the most important message of ‘Dune,’” Brian wrote. The book was not a big success after it was published in 1965 but took off after it was mentioned in the first Whole Earth Catalog in 1970.
“The environmental-awareness theme is the reason the novel became a huge, multi-million copy bestseller,” he said. Herbert became a sought-after speaker on college campuses and at environmental events.
“Which is funny because he was a Republican, very conservative on many issues,” Brian said.
It could be just the trigger to complete the work of the park. Metro Park spokeswoman Nancy Johnson said current plans and budgets will not produce a usable park space for residents. The slag pile was formed by decades of waste dumping by Asarco, all done at the request of Metro Parks which wanted a breakwater. As part of the environmental remediation by the developers of the Point Ruston housing and retail village, crews are laying down liners, clean soil and grass seed but not sprinklers.
“The purpose of the grass at that stage is to hold the soils,” Johnson wrote. “At this time, there are no identified capital nor maintenance and operating funds to add 12 acres of new park land to the district’s operation.
“The vision is to get there, but … the area will remain fenced” until money is found.
Unnamed, such a result might last for a long time. Named for one of the greatest writers the area produced lends it standing and gives supporters motivation to complete the park and open it for public use.
About the proposed park in Tacoma, Brian said of his father, who died in 1986: “He’d love being out at that site.”Peter Callaghan: 253-597-8657 peter.callaghan@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/politics @CallaghanPeter