Looking for a place to stretch your legs? Try Ballinger Park

Ballinger Park, with its wide-open spaces, is a great choice for those wishing to enjoy time out of the house during COVID-19 restrictions. (Photos by Doug Petrowski)

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has ordered state residents to “Stay Home, Stay Healthy,” and told nearly all businesses and community gathering places in the state to close until at least April 8. The City of Mountlake Terrace followed with the temporary closure of “public playgrounds, park restrooms, gazebos, athletic fields, sports courts and the dog park.”

So where can Mountlake Terrace residents go to get some fresh air and stretch their legs in accordance with mandated government orders? There are still plenty of options in the city — officials note that “passive parks and trails are open as long as social distancing occurs.” 

One open option that Terrace residents should consider is Ballinger Park.

he 55-acre Ballinger Park includes a large area of “passive” park land, with trails that — on a dry day — are suitable for walking or biking.

The largest public space in the city, Ballinger Park is 55 acres of both natural and developed park land on the north and east shores of Lake Ballinger. While the sports fields, tennis court, playground structures and picnic tables on the far north portion of the park are closed for the time being, the vast majority of the park is still open for exploration.

Entrances to the passive area of Ballinger Park are at the Mickey Corso Community Clubhouse, 23000 Lakeview Drive, and at the public boat launch area at the southeast corner of the park at 23600 Lakeview Drive.

The 42-acre passive area that makes up the majority of Ballinger Park contains natural trails that cut through pockets of ponds, trees, wildflowers and native grasses. Hall Creek splits the site by running south into Lake Ballinger and is crossed by a wooden bridge, giving visitors easy access to both halves of the parkland.

A range of wildlife calls Ballinger Park home. Here, a freshwater turtle is seen among the reeds along the park’s shoreline.

Wildlife thrives at Ballinger Park — keep an eye out for the many types of birds and waterfowl that call the park home. In addition, small frogs can sometimes be spotted in the ponds, fish can be seen jumping in Lake Ballinger and turtles can be found on the lake shoreline.

Halls Creek runs down the center of Ballinger Park.

The more adventurous visitors to the park can follow a trail on the east side of Halls Creek, reaching a small culvert near the creek’s mouth. This trail is also a good place to hunt for MLT Kindness Rocks, small painted stones left behind by previous visitors.

The park provides stunning views of Lake Ballinger.

Views of Lake Ballinger can be had throughout the natural area of the park. Finding higher ground will give visitors the best views, as the shoreline can be treacherous with brush, fallen trees and muddy conditions (especially in the spring).

The best place to reach the Ballinger Lake shore is near the boat launch. There visitors can get right up to the lake’s edge and fishermen can cast their lines from both the shoreline and the fishing pier. (Unfortunately, all recreational fishing in Washington state is closed until at least April 8 due to the governor’s order.) More picnic tables can be found at this part of the park, but city officials don’t want them being used at this time.

New bike racks have recently been installed at the two park entrances.

There are public restrooms in three sections of Ballinger Park — at the north-end sports fields, at the public boat launch area and inside the community clubhouse. But the state’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order and subsequent closing of Mountlake Terrace city park facilities have left the restrooms locked up for now — so be forewarned.

The community center is home to the Mountlake Terrace Community Senior Center, but the center has also closed down its operations during the governor’s stay-home order.

The park includes two vehicle parking lots. The boat launch area includes the smaller (and more popular) parking area; the larger lot outside the clubhouse, though in need of repair and resurfacing, has plenty of space for park visitors.

Also key points to remember about Ballinger Park: Trash cans are few and far between at the park. The entrances at the community center and at the boat launch are your best bets for finding one. 

A pair of ducks enjoy some of the many wetlands throughout Ballinger Park.

Some areas of the passive park can get marshy and muddy, especially after rain. If you wish to venture off the trails, boots are recommended.

And while providing wide open space, the park does not allow dogs to roam free off-leash, nor fireworks, smoking or alcohol.

Ballinger Park is open from dawn to dusk. For more information about the park, click www.cityofmlt.com/446/Ballinger-Park.

— By Doug Petrowski 

  1. Teresa’s advice is based on sound principles. Fresh air and exercise are very therapeutic for aerating the respiratory system. If it’s sunny, that’s even better.

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