Rep. Rick Larsen visits Meadowdale Beach Park to review improvement project

Rep. Rick Larsen visited Meadowdale Beach Park Tuesday morning to review plans to restore the estuary at the bottom of the park’s one-mile trail.

Estuary restoration would happen by creating a trestle bridge for the railroad. That will allow the area below the rail to be open and water from the stream and Puget Sound to flow naturally. A paved walkway is also set to be installed under the trestle bridge.

Currently, the park’s trail ends at a raised railroad. Fences line the railroad. The only way to safely access the beach is through a culvert below the rail, but that is inaccessible whenever the water level in the stream rises.

The project to restore the estuary and improve beach access is now at its 60 percent design phase and is funded through permitting. Construction costs are estimated to be between $16 million-$18 million, so project officials are pursuing grants to help with the costs.

Project Manager Logan Daniels says the goal of the project is to help fix problems and conflicts between people using the park and beach, salmon using the stream and sediment issues.

Plus, in seasons where the culvert is unusable, people will hop the fences and walk across the tracks, which is unsafe, or they will wade through the water, which disturbs fish and sediment, according to Tom Teigen, director of they county’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department.

“We don’t want people walking through the stream if there are salmon there,” he said.

The improvement project, when complete, will allow for year-round travel below the railroad.

Construction is expected to begin in or before 2020, depending on when funding is secured and when permits are granted.

Though construction is not expected to begin before 2020, Burlington-Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) is already a partner on the project, which Megan McIntyre, BNSF’s assistant director of public projects, says is key. Construction will require the rail to shut down, McIntyre said, and BNSF appreciates the opportunity to plan several of its own projects to happen at the same time while the rail is shutting down anyway.

Barb Ingram, who lives near the park and participated in the creation of the park as it is today, said these improvements will help salmon and people thrive in this area.

“It’s a gem in a densely urban area,” she said. “Our mission from the beginning was to give people access to the beach.”

–Story and photos by Natalie Covate

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