Community Environment Government

Waterfront Alliance pitches downtown playground

Posted on December 27th, 2023 By:

Editor’s note: Before publishing this story, Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance executive director Carrianne Ekberg told Gig Harbor Now that plans for a downtown playground are “on hold.” Soundview Park is also no longer the preferred location for a downtown playground. Images previously presented with this article, which were included in information provided to the city parks commission, do not reflect the alliance’s wishes for an actual playground.

The Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance thinks more shoppers might be coaxed into downtown businesses if the city had a playground in a nearby park.

Carrianne Ekberg, executive director of the alliance, pitched the idea to the city’s parks commission in November and presented designs for several playground possibilities.

The Alliance’s first choice for the playground was Soundview Forest, across from the Tides Tavern, but the organization is flexible about the location, Ekberg said. She added that the alliance’s designer, Reikow Landscape Design, put together a “very elaborate plan” that could be “scaled back to determine what might make the biggest difference in the space with minimal impact.”

In a subsequent email, Ekberg said that the alliance’s board of directors hasn’t yet approved the playground idea and that plans are “on hold.” She said that the designs “were all just ideas to see if the Parks Commission would be open to supporting a playground in the waterfront district. We also aren’t set on Soundview Forest park and do not currently have a location in mind.”

Former mayor weighs in

The playground proposal prompted a letter to parks commissioners from former mayor Kit Kuhn. Kuhn won the support of 71 percent of voters in November 2017 on an anti-development platform.

Before Kuhn’s election, a group led by the Cheney Foundation announced plans to build a gated community of high-end condominiums on the forested land.

In March 2018, just months after taking office, Kuhn negotiated the purchase the property from the Erivan Haub family. Billionaire Haub owned supermarkets throughout Europe and had deep connections to Pierce County, including a waterfront home in Gig Harbor in addition to other local properties.

“Literally thousands of citizens were thrilled with the preservation of this forest of over 300 trees over 100 years old,” Kuhn wrote in his letter to the parks commission. He added that the goal upon purchase of the property was “to keep the park rural so as not to disturb the trees, tree roots, the future of the nesting heron and the natural beauty.”

The proposed playground would have to be ADA accessible, which would add significantly to costs, he wrote.

Deed allows changes to forest land

City Parks Administrator Jennifer Haro said the deed for the property does not prohibit “development of a playground, especially if all the trees are retained.

The deed requires the property to be used “as a park, nature preserve, and/or similar public use in which substantial trees and vegetation are retained except in areas of active public use,’” Haro wrote in an email.

Commissioners comments

Parks Commissioner Justin Teerlinck said that he had “no idea why this playground should even exist. I see no connection between building a playground and increasing business downtown or how this will lead to a return on investment of people buying more lattes.”

The parks commission will meet at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 3. As of Dec. 27, the meeting agenda was not available on the city’s website.