With plans to redevelop parts of Ballinger Lake Park, the City of Mountlake Terrace is looking to local legislators to help secure state funding for an environmental restoration project to realign Hall Creek.
In lieu of the city council’s canceled work/study session, State Sen. Jesse Salomon — who in 2018 was elected to represent the 32nd Legislative District — joined Mountlake Terrace Mayor Kyoko Matsumoto-Wright and city staff for a special meeting to tour the park Thursday afternoon. Salomon’s visit included a discussion of the city’s plans for Ballinger Park, located at 23000 Lakeview Dr. These include a substantial ecological restoration component for the portion of Hall Creek that runs through the park, together with park ponds and wetland areas.
Before his tour, Salomon met with a dozen residents at the Ballinger Clubhouse, where city staff gave a brief presentation about park plans. As vice chair of the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources and Parks Committee, Salomon said it is important to prioritize parks in areas that are seeing urbanization.
“I strongly believe that as we enter into our urban areas, we need to make sure there’s green space,” he said.
City Recreation and Parks Director Jeff Betz said the Ballinger Park projects are the city’s “highest legislative priority.”
“The main item on the legislative agenda is Ballinger Park and assisting with the next steps of the master plan,” he said.
According to Betz, the Hall Creek restoration project is designed to improve both the park’s ecological health and the connectivity between the creek and Lake Ballinger. By realigning the creek into a more natural meandering waterway, the creek and wetlands can better sustain wildlife, including fish, amphibians and migrating birds. The plan also includes removing invasive plants and replacing them with native species.
Currently, the project is in the feasibility stage, which will carry into April 2020. The project is scheduled to be completed in 2022.
Restoring Hall Creek is part of the city’s community-driven master plan for Ballinger Park that includes an “active” side with play areas and picnic shelters, integrated with a “passive” side focused on ecosystem restoration. According to the master plan, total design and construction costs for the 55-acre park are $12.5 million to $15 million to be phased in over several years.
To assist with Hall Creek restoration, the city approached the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which determined the project merited federal interest because it will have a positive impact on significant ecosystem resources. The project is estimated to cost up to $6.2 million and the city would be kicking in 35% of that — $1.7-2.3 million. Staff is hoping to receive $1 million in state funding to help cover the city’s portion.
The Ballinger Park Master Plan also includes a $1.2 million waterfront project involving construction of a new boat launch in the current location, and a new floating boat dock with gangway adjacent to the launch site, plus a new walking path and restrooms. The city in 2018 was awarded a $500,000 Aquatic Land Enhancement Account grant toward those improvements. Additionally, the city recently received a $250,000 grant from the Hazel Miller Foundation to build a universally accessible ADA playground on the southwest side of the park. The Hazel Miller grant will be matched by funding from the Land Water Conservation Fund administered by the National Park Service and the Recreation Conservation Office. The city will receive that money when the federal budget is approved in the fall.
To learn more about the city’s current park projects, visit the park webpage on the city’s website.
–Story and photos by Cody Sexton