Ken Courtmanch takes his last park tour for City of Mountlake Terrace

L-R: Dan Mahoney, Keith Edholm, Susan Kuhn, Anne Bjornstad, Ken Courtmanch and Wendy Westby discuss the changes coming to Veterans Memorial Park.

Montlake Terrace Park Services and Property Management Superintendent Ken Courtmanch recently gave his last Neighborhood Parks Improvement Subcommittee (NPIS) park tour before his retirement in May.

Courtmanch set two boxes of pastel donuts for the NPIS committee members in the Mountlake Terrace Civic Campus. It was about 9:30 a.m. on March 30, and outside, clouds stretched across the bright blue sky like billowy white lace curtains.

Having overseen the parks for the past 28 years, Courtmanch said that interacting with the community is his favorite part of the job and recognizes the significance of the tour. He explained that Mountlake Terrace is one of the few cities with an NPIS.

The subcommittee is a group of 10 citizens who volunteer to oversee the annual inventory of neighborhood parks and recommend improvements to the Recreation and Parks Advisory Commission (RPAC). 

RPAC appoints the NPIS members, who must live within half a mile of the park they represent for their three-year term.

NPIS representatives Susan Kuhn (Evergreen Play Area), Anne Bjornstad (Jack Long Park), Dan Mahoney (Terrace Creek Park), Kathy Tuura (Veterans Memorial Park), Wendy Westby (Ballinger Park) and NPIS liaison Keith Edholm arrived prepared with coats and hoodies for typical Pacific Northwest weather.

Veterans Memorial Park 

The 1958 diesel generator housed in this building was replaced with a new unit installed behind the Mountlake Terrace Police Department. The structure will be replaced with a retaining wall.

The first stop on the tour was an antiquated green building that housed a 1958 diesel back-up generator, located on the Mountlake Terrace Civic Campus side of Veterans Memorial Park in front of the police department.

Since the city placed the new backup generator behind the police department, the building is no longer needed and will be removed.

Related to the Civic Campus, Courtmanch explained that the Eagle Scouts of Troop 60, local organizations and volunteer groups helped clear the trails and remove most of the brush and bramble from the trails leading deeper into the park from the campus.

The group then took the quick walk down 58th Avenue West to Veterans Memorial Park’s upper plateau and playground, where Courtmanch explained the renovations planned for the grounds, including ADA accessibility.

The trees planted by the NPIS in honor of Courtmanch’s parents are among the landmarks being moved to a different location on the upper plateau.

Jack Long Park

Jack Long Park, stretching alongside the Mountlake Terrace water tanks, is what NPIS representative Anne Bjornstad calls “the quiet little park.”

The park’s opening is on 58th Avenue West, across from St. Pius X Catholic Church. Visitors are greeted by a shaded picnic table, a mini library and a stand to lock their bikes.

Although it lacks playground equipment, the park does have horseshoe pits.

Courtmanch said that the little park has a big order of plants coming, which will be planted with the help of a children’s program.

He added that kids who plant seeds and see them grow into plants over the years give them a sense of accomplishment and a connection to the park.

Courtmanch said that although people have donated trees to Jack Long Park, staff must consider utility placement. Since the park is alongside the water towers, they are limited on where to place trees while maintaining service access.

Ballinger Park

Courtmanch probably knows Ballinger Park better than anyone in Mountlake Terrace. He was the groundskeeper when it was a golf course, then hired on by the City of Mountlake Terrace in 1986.

He explained to the group that one of the critical elements to designing park usage is water drainage and ensuring the water flows to the proper place while keeping wildlife in mind.

Courtmanch said that the area was built on a floodplain, and although the city cannot eliminate flooding from heavy rain, it can reduce it by directing it and planning bends to accommodate the water. 

He said that bends in creeks and rivers help reduce water toxins and benefit wildlife. Further, creating culverts gives fish a resting place to return to Lake Ballinger that a straight waterway wouldn’t provide.

Updates to Lake Ballinger and Ballinger Park can be seen here.

Terrace Creek Overlook

Terrace Creek Overlook is located on the corner of 236th Street Southwest and 45th Court West. It is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it location with a small parking lot.

The group arrived to see Scout Theo Cooksey’s Eagle Scout project in action, where Cooksey, his father Marty Cooksey, and fellow Scout Owen Davis dug post holes for a new bench.

Cooksey’s project is to reclaim the park’s sitting area, re-level the bench area and install a new bench.

Davis’s project is to replace the path’s railing. Davis explained that Eagle Scout Zachary O’Connell had cleared the trail of brambles and vines and cleaned up the area so that he could proceed with his project.

Terrace Ridge Park

Terrace Ridge Park on 242nd Street Southwest has an open view of the greenway maintained for the high-voltage power lines. What is now a modern playground started as a mess.

Courtmanch explained that when the playground was built, the area was a patch of deep mud, which made it easier for workers to align the structure. However, there was a drawback.

“Don’t drop a bolt,” Courtmanch warned the NPIS tour.

The mud was the right consistency to lose one of the heavy bolts, nuts or hand tools into a goopy sludge of water and earth.

The structure is set on a play surface that has the give of a very firm sponge and is covered in wood chips, which Courtmanch explained are cut in a specific way to be ADA accessible.

Terrace Creek Park

Terrace Creek Park, known to locals as Candy Cane Park due to its trademark red-and-white-striped swing set, was the tour’s last stop.

Courtmanch said that the park was next on the list for master planning, and the challenges of parts availability were one reason. He explained that none of the slides are considered “off the shelf,” which meant staff had to comb through various slide manufacturers to find measurements they could work with.

Possibly the most welcomed news Courtmanch shared for the park master plan is the addition of restrooms rather than the current single unisex portable toilet.

The master plan will preserve the park’s trademark swings, which were installed and hand-painted by the Lady Lions Club. A Girl Scout troop repainted the replacement swings years later.

“If you look, you’ll see they’re hand-painted,” Courtmanch said of the swing sets.

The name is so iconic that online search results for Terrace Creek Park will include Candy Cane Park in brackets.

The group returned to the Civic Campus, and as the tour ended, so did the nice weather as the wind began to pick up.

Although this is Courtmanch’s last tour for the Mountlake Terrace NPIS, it is not the last time the community will hear from him. In addition to continuing his work as a Boy Scout mentor, he plans to volunteer his time on the Snohomish County Park Advisory Commission Board.

— Story and photos by Rick Sinnett

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