On a warm summer day the cars of visitors to Pierce County’s largest eastside park spill onto the roadsides and into the nearby neighborhoods surrounding the 135-acre park.
That parking lot overflow is an indication of Lake Tapps North County Park’s popularity, but also it’s a hazard for roadway users and a major nuisance for the park’s lakeside neighbors.
Pierce County’s Parks and Recreation Department has a plan it hopes improves the park’s appeal to a broader spectrum of users from toddlers to trail hounds while building new parking lots to handle the crowds. Many of those improvements will make better use of 55 additional undeveloped acres the county bought from Puget Sound Energy in 2015.
The improvements will be among the first fruits of the Pierce County Council’s decision last fall to raise park impact fees. Those fees are assessed on newly built homes in the county. A citizens advisory committee ranked improvements to Lake Tapps North County Park high on the list of needs to be funded by the new income. The park is located on the northeast corner of the lake at 2022 198th Ave. E.
That county’s park improvement draft plan, said Kimberly Freeman, the parks department’s resource stewardship superintendent, has three objectives:
▪ Improve parking. During warmer months, the park’s parking lots fill up, and visitors begin parking on roadsides and in neighborhoods. The preliminary plan calls for creating additional parking lots in areas inland from the park’s long waterfront.
That parking is the likely first improvement the county will create, said Freeman, before it begins constructing other attractions at the park. The county charges a fee for auto access to the park.
▪ Expand activities throughout the park. The park’s chief attraction now is its swimming area on Lake Tapps. The initial plans call for improvements to that attraction, but also the creation of a more diverse mix of attractions. Those could include a more extensive network of trails. a children’s play area and possibly a splash fountain. More picnic area could also be built to accommodate the larger crowds.
▪ Improve waterfront areas. The most pressing need, said Freeman, is to reconstruct the bulkhead where the park meets the lake. The old bulkhead is crumbling, allowing the park to gradually erode into the lake waters. Other changes could include better access for walkers and observers who don’t want to swim or boat but to just enjoy the view of the activity on the lake and a beach volleyball court.
While the county has created a draft improvement plan, said Freeman, it wants the public to offer ideas about what’s needed at Lake Tapps North Park.
To that end, the county is holding an open house today (Thursday) at North Tapps Middle School Commons, 20029 12th St. E. in Bonney Lake. The open house will begin at 5:30 p.m. and end at 7:30 p.m.