With spring finally starting to come around, Key Peninsula and Gig Harbor residents have been flocking to Gateway Park on state Highway 302, just west of 94th Avenue Northwest. Although the park isn’t near total completion, the final touches of phase one and phase two have already attracted families looking to spend more time outside.
The final touch of phase two is near completion; a beautiful wood pavilion sitting next to the playground area that will provide a place for community events and parties.
Scott Gallacher, executive director of Key Pen Parks, said the pavilion is unique because of a bit of artistic touch which has highlighted local features of the park.
“It is a unique structure,” Gallacher said. “We’ll be putting lights in there. But the workers are knocking this out quite quickly.”
The pavilion features local wood stained to keep its natural colors, and at the base of the 30-foot-by-60-foot structure are stainless steel brackets from Tacoma Steel that resemble unique features of the Key Peninsula. Some brackets look like orca whales, some are sailboats, some are herons and some are crabs. The words “Gateway Park” are also shown on the side of the pavilion near the roof line written in nails.
On a sunny day this place is packed. People love coming and spending time out here.
Scott Gallacher, executive director of Key Pen Parks.
The pavilion will be completed and opened to the public by April, Gallacher said.
Gig Harbor Rotary Club members supported the project with a grant of $20,000. They also supplied volunteers to help with the construction and design of the structure.
“We did the groundbreaking on Fourth of July last year,” Jeff Harris, member of the Gig Harbor Rotary Evening Club, said. “I did a presentation to Rotary on the process since groundbreaking two weeks ago.”
Harris said he also looped in his neighbor and owner of RTK Construction, Tim Keolker, to help build the pavilion.
“He is a character,” Harris said. “Determined, tenacious … he really deserves the credit.”
“He has done a wonderful job on this pavilion,” Gallacher said. “This pavilion is Western fir. So it blends well with the area. We had a lot of volunteers.”
THE GATEWAY PARK’S PROCESS
The plan for the large park is broken into four phases. Phase one included parking, the playground and the pavilion. Phase two included a large grassy space that is open for pets on leashes and people alike. The two phases connect to the nearby 360 Trail which is open to hikers, mountain bikers and horse riders. The next step, Gallacher said, is phase 3.
“What will be happening is we are going to write for grants to the Recreation and Conservation Office for our phase three project,” Gallacher said. “Our phase three project is a splash pad, another small pavilion and an amphitheater area.”
Gallacher said a lot of the plans are going to shift a bit because the park was able to purchase a few more surrounding acres in the park.
Key Pen Parks hopes the community will use the amphitheater for outdoor movie nights, plays, small concerts and more to attract more residents on the Key Peninsula.
Gallacher said the start of phase three depends on if KeyPen Parks will receive grants. If it does, construction will not start until 2020. If not, the beginning of phase 3 will be left up to the parks department board of commissioners.
“It could start as early as next year,” Gallacher said. “But that’s a board decision. We are hoping for grants.”
Gallacher said he is applying for the same grants that the city of Gig Harbor is hoping to receive for the proposed sports complex project.
“We’ve been very successful for grants,” Gallacher said. “We received grants to buy the property and we used grants for the structure here.”
Key Pen Parks received a grant for $425,000 to help purchase the land for Gateway Park, which the department matched. The extra 33 acres the department recently purchased cost Key Pen Parks around $325,000.
Gallacher said Gateway Park has been the baby project of Key Pen Parks because it will be the first developed park in the 98329 zip code, which serves the largest population on the Key Peninsula. Key Pen Parks had been saving for years, thanks to an ongoing yearly levy, to start this project. Key Pen Parks controls over 1,200 acres of land on nine different properties.
“There is another piece of property in Key Central area that is 480 acres,” Gallacher said. “But that is just natural landscaping. Because of the location, (Gateway Park) has features placed on it.”
The other phases include a potential dog park, an administration building, an equestrian training area and synthetic turf sports field.
Gallacher said Key Pen Parks has been planning this project since 2012 and broke ground in 2015. Key Pen Parks employees have been working fast, and if luck with grants and funding keeps rolling they would ideally like to see all the phases completed by 2028.
“It’s funding-based,” Gallacher said. “It’s amazing what it costs to just put in chain-link fencing. These other phases do get expensive so it might be longer than 10 years. For example, a synthetic turf field is $1 million, with lights it’s $1.5 million. The overall project when we did the cost estimate was right around $8 million. That being said, cost of construction has gone up almost 30 percent.”
While Gallacher spends his time writing grants, he is excited to see the number of people already enjoying the park.
“On a sunny day this place is packed,” he said. “People love coming and spending time out here.”