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Be part of shaping Point Defiance Park’s future

Most cities have something that sets them apart, something that draws visitors and acclaim: a river walk, a tower, a monument, a museum or a collection.

These cities have gone to great expense to design, build, acquire and market their attractions, and they are very proud of them, as they should be. Some are recovered industrial wastelands, or polished remnants of world fairs, Olympics or historical events.

These attractions are worthy destinations. We go there and have our pictures taken in front of these dramatic, beautiful or restored places. Some are historic while some are exciting and entertaining.

I have always wanted Tacoma to have some dazzling attraction to awe visitors and attract tourists. I love seeing the beautiful, restored, fun or inspiring places that other cities have. But I never forget the ultimate traveler’s proverb: “It’s a wonderful place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.”

Staying there for a few days, or even a week or two, may be a dream vacation, but it would never be home, a place I could call my own.

Those places are forever full of strangers, long lines and high prices. And I am glad Tacoma has these rarely or not at all.

But Tacoma does have something even more remarkable, something not built to commemorate some historic event or cultural achievement, or a gruesome battle. It is something that reflects who we are, where we have been and where we are going.

We have a place we can touch, walk, run or drive through, a place where children can play and explore, where families can meet and where any one of us can find a stillness unheard of in any other city. It is a place of quietly lapping saltwater waves, playgrounds and 500-year-old trees.

Yes, I’m talking about Point Defiance Park.

Few states have their own original, living remnants of their primordial past. Many of the trees in Point Defiance are older than our nation. Some are older than most nations of the world.

Any city can build a monument to itself. Point Defiance is not a monument to us; it is a testament to our history and our ultimate gift to the future.

There is nothing dazzling about Point Defiance. It offers refuge more than distraction, restoration more than entertainment. Point Defiance is large enough to be (almost) all things to all people, no matter what their age, interest or ability level.

The beauty of Point Defiance is that we didn’t build it. Our duty is not to fix it or even manage it. Our work is to keep it from being torn apart by our own hands.

My goal for Point Defiance is maximum use and maximum protection; these need not be contradictory.

Any park can have a playground, but what are some activities that take advantage of the features unique to Point Defiance? What are some projects that enhance the historical and natural educational opportunities only Point Defiance can offer, without adding too much traffic or cost.

Here’s my suggestion: If you’ve lost track of time, or walked too far from your car near closing time, you have probably noticed that the park gets dark. Really dark.

The old Camp 6 site (currently a gravel parking lot) would be an ideal site for a nighttime observatory. Local schools – Tacoma’s Sciene and Math Institute, the University of Puget Sound, Pacific Lutheran University, Pierce College and Tacoma Community College (among many others) – could combine their resources for a one-of-a-kind eye to the stars.

The newly opened corner of the park near the go-kart track could be dedicated to more active uses – like retail. But should it?

If you love Point Defiance, and have ideas about what we should (or should not) do, Metro Parks is sponsoring a series of public forums on the fourth Thursday of the month in February, March and April. The forums begin at 6 p.m. at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium Education Center.

There are many changes afoot in our beloved park. Be a part of them. Tacoma might not be the most exciting place to visit, but it is a wonderful place to live.

M. (Morf) Morford of Tacoma is a former reader columnist. He serves on the Point Defiance Park steering committee and is chairman of the North End Neighborhood Council. Email him at mmorf@mail.com.

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