Public sees design ideas for Ballinger Park viewing platform, trails

An aerial view of Ballinger Park shows the current state of development with a fishing pier and boat launch to the east and the Edmonds residential neighborhood to the west. (Photo courtesy City of Mountlake Terrace)

The City of Mountlake Terrace hosted a public meeting Wednesday night to present design ideas for viewing platforms and trails that will be constructed at Ballinger Park and is also inviting community members to take a survey on the concepts.

The $5.5 million project broke ground on May 31 and is being directed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It aims to transform the former nine-hole golf course into a natural area with wetlands, riparian corridors, natural vegetation, and habitat for birds, fish, turtles and amphibians – and hopefully someday to support salmon runs.

The next stage of the project is to build viewing platforms and trails, which include pathways connecting the Interurban Trail to a new viewing platform over the lake. The trails will also provide access to the flyover boardwalk and the Hall Creek bridge crossing, both currently under construction.

Consultant Guy Michaelsen speaks during the meeting.

Overseeing the design of the viewing platforms and trails is Berger Partners’ Guy Michaelsen, whose credits include Magnuson Park, Redmond Central Connector, and Riverfront Park.

Among the concerns expressed by community members attending the hybrid virtual/in-person meeting Wednesday was a proposed plan to install a screen between the viewing platform and nearby homes.

Although Michaelsen said the screen was meant to create a sense of privacy for those on the docks and the surrounding neighborhood, some attendees commented that it would break the experience of being immersed in the park and ruin opportunities for photographers.

To the left is the platform location in the master plan, and to the right is the alternate area set closer to Hall Creek — both with Lake Ballinger at the bottom of the image. Homes located in Edmonds, which borders the park to the west, are at left

One question presented to meeting attendees was whether the viewing platform should be shifted further east, closer to the opening of Hall Creek – which differs from earlier plans. Michaelsen said this preferred location would provide a better view of plants and wildlife at the creek’s mouth. Also, being farther away from the neighborhood would offer a buffer while still connecting to the trail system, he said.

Option A for the bridge and observation platform is called Dogwood Thicket after the native plant.
The platforms are designed to bring guests right over the water for a panoramic view of the lake.
Option B is a pathway inspired by the grass-like Sedge plant and ends with two screens resembling intersecting boat sails.
Although Option B’s sedge inspiration may provide some shade throughout the day, photographers still have an obstructed view. However, Option B’s design may be easier to work around for some shots.

The consultant has proposed two structural themes for the platform and bridge leading up to it: dogwood thicket and sedge. The dimensions of both designs raised ADA access concerns among some meeting attendees, who stated it isn’t wide enough to allow a pedestrian and wheelchair user to pass by each other.

Michaelsen said the bridge was intentionally designed to be narrow to feel like a catwalk over the water.

“We think that the experience of being on something narrow and sort of perched, like a catwalk, benefits everyone universally, whether you’re mobility challenged or not,” Michaelsen said. “And that you’d be able to say, ‘There is a wheelchair there, and I’m a wheelchair here, and I’m going to manage that.’”

Michaelsen explained that the bridge is short enough to see an approaching wheelchair and that the land and platform sides act as landings. Further, it’s unlikely that two wheelchair users would be unable to figure out a solution. Such a scenario is not likely enough to require designers to “double the width and undermine the experience of getting out on this thing and increase its footprint over water,” he said.

He stressed that the platform is 100% ADA accessible and said the narrow bridge is an added feature for the mobility impaired.

“We think that its narrowness is actually what will make it really cool, especially for someone who has mobility challenges and doesn’t usually get those really cool catwalk experiences,” Michaelsen added.

Not only will Mountlake Terrace residents be able to give input on the size of the trails, but the materials from which they’re made.

Other meeting attendees wondered about the crushed rock material proposed for use in the network of secondary paths (shown in pink) connecting the park.

Michaelsen said that the material for the trail is a highly compacted surface that allows for drainage and is easy to walk on.

 “It’s not something that would be slipping around,” he said of the rock material.

The city will schedule another meeting on the viewing platform and trail design in winter 2023, with construction set to begin in summer 2024. The estimated total cost of this project will be $1.3 million.

The suggested color palette is based on native plants, but the city and Michaelsen said they are open to suggestions.

Community members are invited to take the survey and provide input on the park construction, such as paths, path materials, the wildlife viewing platform and aesthetic choices such as color and theme.  You can access the SurveyMonkey survey by clicking here.

Learn more about the Ballinger Park viewing platform by clicking here.

— By Rick Sinnett

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