Community Environment Government

Kopachuck State Park improvements finally forthcoming

Posted on February 13th, 2024 By:

A renovated Kopachuck State Park, at long last, will begin to emerge this spring. Fourteen years in the works, construction is slated to commence in late April.

All permits have been approved. Drawings are finished. Bids will be sought by the end of February. Groundbreaking would follow.

“I’m very excited to get out to bid and get this thing going,” said Project Manager Brian Yearout, who’s been involved with the facelift for more than a decade. “The designs are 100% complete. The specifications are going through one last final (internal) review and then we’re ready to advertise.”

Kopachuck State Park site plan.

Kopachuck State Park site plan. Courtesy of Washington State Parks

The park was re-envisioned for day use-only after the campground area closed in 2011 as a safety precaution. Mature Douglas fir trees had become infected with laminated root rot and hundreds were cut down. Park-goers now enjoy the upper wooded area for picnicking and hiking and the beach for wading, gathering shellfish and watching the sun set over Carr Inlet and the Olympic Mountains.

Master plan completed in 2014

A master plan completed in 2014 provided a new identity as a day-use park for the 280-acre site 6 miles west of downtown Gig Harbor. Up top, it features a multipurpose building that can accommodate events such as weddings, school groups and community gatherings and a welcome center.

Multi-purpose building exterior

Multi-purpose building exterior. Courtesy of Washington State Parks

Along the sides of the multi-purpose building will be an American Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant picnic area, amphitheater and play area. New water, sewer and storm water management systems will support the renovations.

‘Perfect storm’ led to delays

The drawn-out lead-up resulted from a series of unfortunate events.

“We missed one biennium where we asked for funding and didn’t get any, so that was two years lost,” said Yearout, who is State Parks’ Southwest Capital Region Manager. “We needed a couple years to get through design. Permitting definitely took a lot longer than anyone anticipated. We hit Covid and ran into funding issues because of cost escalation while we waited to secure our permits, so it was kind of a perfect storm.”

Multi-purpose building layout

Multi-purpose building layout. Courtesy of Washington State Parks

The project required 28 permits through various agencies. The final eight, all from Pierce County, took more than a year to acquire.

“I’m not really sure where the disconnect was between us and the county,” Yearout said. “What I can say is State Parks and Pierce County are in a good place right now. We have a good working relationship. I think we worked through all of our past miscommunications.”

Beach work set aside

The state Legislature provided $5.5 million for the project in its 2017-19 capital budget. Because of delays in permitting, required redesign and inflation, the funding fell $2.1 million short. The gap was covered in the 2022 supplemental budget, but $1 million was removed because State Parks couldn’t get the beach area fully permitted, Yearout said. Rather than further delay the entire project, it split off the lower area, which comprises just 10% to 20%, for later.

Welcome center

Welcome center. Courtesy of Washington State Parks

By first finishing the upper-area renovation, Kopachuck won’t have to be entirely closed twice as would be necessary if both the upper and lower sections were partially completed. The top can remain open during the later beach phase.

Cost range $6.3 to $7.3 million

The cost for the upper portion is estimated at $6.3 million to $7.3 million. There’s money in the capital budget to cover a shortfall, Yearout said. State Parks will request funding for the beach area in the 2027-29 biennium.

“We aren’t pursuing any additional money right now,” Yearout said. “We feel better as an agency to get this project started and spend the current appropriation and look at next session to request additional funding to finish off the beach area.”

Restroom in upper part of Kopachuck State Park

Restroom in upper part of Kopachuck State Park. A multi-purpose building adjacent to play and picnic areas will be built in the upper park. Photo by Ed Friedrich Ed Friedrich / Gig Harbor Now

Much of what was envisioned for the lower beach was not feasible because of slope above and couldn’t be permitted, so the plan was scaled back. Restrooms, for example, aren’t an allowable use and were removed.

“It’s minimal compared to what the grand plan was,” said Yearout. “We have an ADA trail and boardwalk that kind of goes out to the beach.”

Year to construct

After the park earlier lost so many trees to disease, the design team worked to limit the number to be removed for the project. As a potential alternate bid item, some could be used as part of the new buildings, Yearout said.

The park will close when construction begins. Work is expected to be wrapped up and the park reopened by spring or summer of 2025.