In a few years, Meadowdale Beach Park won’t end with railroad tracks and a culvert leading out to the beach. Instead, Snohomish County officials are planning to turn the area into an open estuary habitat with a more open access.
The project has been in the works for a few years, county officials told a group of about 50 community members during an open house about the project on Wednesday night at Meadowdale High School. It is currently about 30 percent through its planning phase.
Under the plan, the grassy area west of the ranger’s residence will be smaller than it is now. However, much of that area will be converted into an estuary connecting Puget Sound to the park’s stream. The restroom shelter will be moved about 20 feet east of the picnic shelter, parallel to the walking path.
One of the most drastic changes to the park will be converting the railroad tracks into a bridge, so that water can flow more freely between the sound and the stream and pedestrian access won’t be affected by changing tides.
Currently, the only connection the two water sources share is a culvert, which is also the park’s only pedestrian access to the beach. Logan Daniels of Snohomish County Parks and Recreation told community members Wednesday that during flooding events, this culvert becomes inaccessible to pedestrians.
“Right now, sediment is an ongoing problem,” Peter Hummel, a consultant for Snohomish County on the project, said. “That’s why water backs up in the culvert.”
Opening up the area with a bridge will bring numerous benefits. It will make flows more manageable, as well as limit the affect water flows would have on pedestrians. It also allows for ADA accessibility to the beach.
In addition, an estuary habitat would allow for a better transition from saltwater to freshwater, which may encourage salmon to spawn in the area. Native plants for wetlands, forests and beaches can also be brought into the area.
Improvements are possible in the park as well, including potential new picnic benches made out of concrete, or updated water fountains with dog water access, or even a foot washing station.
One challenge of the project is that BNSF, which owns and operates the railroad that will be put on a bridge, is not allowing the rail line to move at all from where it is now, even temporarily during construction.
“It’s one of those things that makes construction a little more difficult, but it can be done,” said Travis Painter, a consultant for the project.
The bridge is expected to be about 130 feet long when completed, and must be at least 6 feet above the walking path to meet ADA guidelines.
Total costs for the project have not yet been determined, as the project is still in the early design phase. However, the preliminary schedule for the project would be to have design completed by mid-2018, grants and permits acquired in 2018, put the project up for bids in August 2019, begin construction in December 2019 and a ribbon cutting in November 2020.
That schedule is subject to change, however, depending on funding.
“We do not have the funding right now for construction,” Daniels said.
The project cannot go up for a bid until the funding for construction has been secured.
–Story and photos by Natalie Covate