Point Defiance Improvements Under Way

You might have noticed a crane rising above the trees in Point Defiance Park. That’s because there’s a lot happening at the park (and the zoo) lately. Here’s the 411 on all that construction.

A new way to get from Point Defiance to Ruston Way

Thanks to a Tacoma voter-approved bond in 2014, there will be several updates to Point Defiance Park as part of “Destination Point Defiance,” a Metro Parks Tacoma project that will transform the former ASARCO Superfund site into a waterfront area.

One project currently in motion is Wilson Way, a bike and pedestrian bridge that will connect Point Defiance to Ruston Way.

“Before the connection … you had Point Defiance Park and you had Ruston Way. The ability to get from one to the other was problematic,” said Marty Stump, design and construction manager for planning and development at Metro Parks. “Now, with this project, we’re able to knit the two together.”

The bridge will include a series of slides for a 59-foot drop to the waterfront park area.

“It’s not a playground setting,” said Stump, “but rather part of a pathway system.”

Metro Parks modeled the slide on similar bridges in the United States. The bridge is set to open in 2018.

A new campus for SAMI

courtesy McGranahan Architects

Tacoma Public Schools’ Science and Math Institute (SAMI) is building a new campus on the zoo grounds. The Environmental Learning Center building is a partnership between Metro Parks Tacoma and the school district. It will include two science labs, administrative space, space for zoo staff and volunteers, and an early learning center. The 30,100-square-foot, $19 million building is expected to be complete in fall.

An 11-acre park on the peninsula
The ASARCO Superfund site is being developed into a waterfront park area. The $60 million project is expected to be finished in 2018. Not all funding came from the bond; Metro Parks leveraged the money for other grants. The EPA also is involved in the project. The project uses remediated contaminated soil to build out the 11-acre park.

A new aquarium at the zoo

A major part of that 2014 bond is the building of the new Pacific Seas Aquarium at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. Zoo spokesperson Kris Sherman said the aquarium will be “a showpiece” for PDZA. The aquarium, especially the Baja Bay exhibit, will introduce new species to PDZA. The exhibit will recreate a piece of the Gulf of California and the Mexican Pacific coast. It will include scalloped hammerhead sharks and green sea turtles.The original aquarium opened in 1963.

A roundabout at the Pearl Street entrance

WSDOT and the City of Tacoma are partnering with Metro Parks to make a roundabout at the Pearl Street entrance to the park. No more of those “You go” — “No, you go” traffic jams at the intersection.

An already-open revamp to Rocky Shores

A $2 million makeover recently updated and refreshed the 35-year-old Rocky Shores area at the zoo. Rocky Shores is home to puffins, walruses, sea lions, sea otters, and more. Chinook, a 779-pound California sea lion, now is swimming in a newly renovated 220,000-gallon pool.



is a staff writer at South Sound magazine. Email her.
Find Out First
Learn about South Sound food, arts
and culture, home design, and more.
no thanks