Summer’s around the corner, and the City of Mountlake Terrace officially celebrated the recently completed Ballinger Park Waterfront Project with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Lake Ballinger on May 21.
Mayor Kyoko Matsumoto Wright welcomed those in attendance, which included the Mountlake Terrace City Council, State Rep. Cindy Ryu, State Sen. Jesse Salomon, officials from South County Fire, project designers and recreation and parks staff. Ryu and Salomon both serve the 32nd Legislative District, which includes portions of Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace.
Construction on the nearly $1.5 million waterfront improvement project began last July and the facilities first opened again in January of this year. The work added a new 220-foot aluminum fishing pier, boat launch and dock along with enhanced shoreline improvements, new restrooms and other amenities. Making the improvements required demolition of the existing fishing pier, boat ramp, and tire rip rap.
Recreation and Parks Director Jeff Betz provided a brief overview of improvements made and the history of the waterfront facilities. The project focused on improving waterfront recreation activities on the east side of Lake Ballinger as many of the previous amenities had been there since the 1970s, and the park needed to better account for modern standards around accessibility and habitat protection.
Betz said he realized approximately six years ago that it was time to replace the aging structures and facilities. He noted that the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office, along with Snohomish County, had both helped provide funding for the improvements.
The project will also include constructing an accessible pathway this summer that runs from the boat launch area to the Mountlake Terrace Senior Community Center in the north end of Ballinger Park.
The City of Mountlake Terrace also partnered with South County Fire and volunteer Kevin Sayson to unveil the newly installed life jacket loaner station at Ballinger Park. The safety program is a partnership between public and private entities that makes life jackets available to the public on a loan basis. It provides life jackets to several such loaner stations throughout the area so that the public can check out a life jacket for free while enjoying water-based recreation activities.
To make room for the new life jacket loaner station, the city repurposed the kiosk at the Ballinger Park Boat Launch. South County Fire and Sayson will provide life jackets there throughout the summer. The station is anticipated to be available for use at the end of this month.
Sayson told those in attendance that he lost his brother Tyrone Fabroa to a drowning eleven years ago in Lake Washington “and ever since then we’ve been collecting life jackets and then donating them back to local loaner stations like this.” Before cutting the ribbon on the loaner station, he added, “I’m a local here in Mountlake Terrace and so once I found out the park was under construction I reached out to” city staff, who was supportive of the idea. “It was kind of just perfect timing and South County Fire was a great part of that and it’s been a great collaboration,” he said.
A sign on the side of the life jacket loaner station has water safety tips listed in five languages.
“We want to make sure that families that are here at the beach whether they’re swimming or recreating or just having a picnic have an opportunity to borrow a life jacket for the day so that if they go in on near the water they have an added layer of safety and protection,” South County Fire Community Outreach Manager Shawneri Guzman said. “So hopefully we can go a summer and many summers without any drownings at this lake.”
In addition to the completed waterfront improvements, the City of Mountlake Terrace will also begin construction of a universally accessible playground nearby later this year.
A separate project on the west side of Ballinger Park involves new trails and a wildlife viewing platform, along with a realignment of Hall Creek to address flooding – with construction expected in 2023.
“The idea is to keep that (west) side of the park passive and this will be more the active pieces,” Betz explained of the long-term vision. “And then to have it all connected with walking paths so everybody can walk through and enjoy it.”
The sun was shining and an eagle was circling over the lake at several points during Saturday’s ribbon-cutting. Cake and refreshments were served after the ceremony. Besides those gathered for the ceremony, the waterfront’s beach area, boat launch and fishing pier were busy with people enjoying activities at the new facilities.
— By Nathan Blackwell