As part of this year’s News Tribune series celebrating the 100th anniversary of Point Defiance Park and envisioning its future, we asked readers to contribute their opinions about the park. While not a scientific poll, we received more than 60 responses giving a snapshot of how people feel about the Point and how it could be better. Here’s what they had to say:
Asked to complete the statement Point Defiance has …
• Seen better days/is past its prime: 4 percent
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• Perfect as it is: 20 percent
• Has the potential to be even better: 76 percent
Asked to name some of their favorite attractions, the top vote-getters were:
1. Five Mile Drive 64 percent
2. Owen Beach 63 percent
3. Zoo & Aquarium 53 percent
4. Gardens 44 percent
5. Forest & trails 39 percent
Asked in what ways the park might be improved, ideas most favored were:
1. A connection to Ruston Way 64 percent
2. Signs interpreting history and nature 45 percent
3. Better maintenance 41 percent
4. Better traffic circulation 36 percent
5. Restaurants 34 percent
6. (tie) Pedestrian/bike facilities, guided nature tours, more parking and more/better playgrounds and kids activities 31 percent
Asked to list the some of the biggest threats to the park, top concerns:
1. Too commercialized 69 percent
2. Crime and safety issues 52 percent
3. Lack of maintenance 50 percent
4. Development of natural areas 48 percent
5. Lack of money 44 percent
Asked what contributions they’d be willing to make to improve the park, top responses were:
1. Pay more taxes for maintenance 59 percent
2. Volunteer to maintain/improve park 47 percent
3. Pay a parking or entry fee 45 percent
4. Join a Friends of Point Defiance group 44 percent
• “Natural beauty and tranquility must be preserved and nurtured,” said Sharon Martin, Tacoma.
• Carl Allen, a 13-year-old Tacoma resident, envisioned developing the peninsula next to the Yacht Club with a climbing mountain (with sides for both competitive and beginning climbers), as well as picnic tables and a playground.
• “People should be encouraged to get outside and park their cars, rather than enabling them to drive to all parts of the park,” said P.J. and Barbara Pemberton, Puyallup.
• Long-time Ruston resident Vernie Messina suggested further waterfront development with a motel, restaurant and other businesses.
• Helen Engel of University Place warned against the park becoming too commercialized. She pointed to the recommendation of a 1975-76 citizens advisory group which she served on: “The central theme of Point Defiance Park shall be the appreciation of the natural environment – other uses permissible, but no use may violate this theme.”
• Carl Windsor of Lacey pointed to Seaport Village in San Diego and Shoreline Village in Long Beach, Calif., as potential models of revenue-generating attractions.
• Ken Wheeler of Gig Harbor suggested that the Point look to the past for ideas: revive a streetcar from downtown, revitalize the Pagoda to honor Tacoma’s early Japanese community, bring the old ferry Skansonia to the waterfront and revive Funland-type amusements.
• North End resident John Keliher cautioned that future plans for the Point should be tempered by the needs of the entire park system and the ongoing costs to maintain it. “Might I suggest that if we adopt even half of the suggested items in the survey, we could love Point Defiance to death, destroying the very features that make it Tacoma’s crown jewel: its space, its openness, its primitive setting and its accessibility to all without regard to family income,” he said.
John Henrikson, The News Tribune