Groundbreaking ceremony marks beginning of Ballinger Park transformation

Elected officials and project staff join in the ceremonial groundbreaking.

A long-awaited groundbreaking Tuesday marked the beginning of efforts to create a natural sanctuary at Mountlake Terrace’s 16-acre Ballinger Park.

Among those attending were 32nd District State Reps. Cindy Ryu and Lauren Davis and State Sen. Jesse Salomon, and representatives from the offices of U.S. Reps. Rick Larsen and Suzan DelBene, both of whom couldn’t be present due to debt ceiling negotiations in Washington, D.C.  Also on hand was Col. Alexander “Xander” Bullock, commander of the Army Corps of Engineers Seattle District, which is overseeing and directing project construction in partnership with the City of Mountlake Terrace.

Hall Creek is presently overgrown with non-native plants. The project includes relocating Hall Creek to a new channel and creating a riparian area with native plants.
Rendering of the riparian area to be created around Hall Creek. (Courtesy Army Corps of Engineers)

The $5.5 million project aims to transform the former nine-hole golf course — known to local golfers for cheap green fees and soggy fairways littered with goose droppings — into a natural area with wetlands, riparian corridors, natural vegetation, habitat for birds, fish, turtles and amphibians – and hopefully someday to support salmon runs. A large piece of the funding ($3.4 million) comes from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill; the remainder comes from state and local sources, including $1 million from the Washington State Legislature.

But it’s more than wildlife habitat – the project is for people too.

Mountlake Terrace Recreation and Parks Director Jeff Betz welcomes attendees.

“Parks establish and maintain quality of life in the community,” said Mountlake Terrace Recreation and Parks Director Jeff Betz. “All great cities have an active parks system, and recent studies show that 83% of adults surveyed place a high value on their public parks for walking, exercising and experiencing the calm and restoration that come from being in a natural area.”

Betz went on to explain how in 2015, the city adopted a new parks master plan to incorporate native plants, trails and boardwalks, enhance wetlands and create new open space to protect critical habitat and become a destination regional park.

Satellite view of the project site. (Photo courtesy Army Corps of Engineers)

“And that’s what we have here today,” he added.  “These improvements will provide significant habitat for migratory birds and native amphibians. In addition, Hall Creek runs right through the park and planned work by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to remove a series of culverts that currently block salmon migration from Lake Washington could restore historic Hall Creek salmon runs. Imagine observing wild salmon spawning right here in the park!”

The work is being planned and conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of its mission to work on infrastructure projects on behalf of the federal government.

Army Corps of Engineers Seattle District Commander Col. Alexander “Xander” Bullock spoke of the great cooperation of all involved to bring the project to the groundbreaking stage.

“The Army Corps of Engineers plays a key role in protecting the environment for everyone,” remarked Bullock. “This project is good for the community, and I’m proud that the corps will have an outsized impact on an effort that will touch this community deeply. What we do here today means that our children and grandchildren will be able to walk through the park, experience nature, the animals, and the clean water that will run through this newly formed riparian area. It’s a precious thing, and I’m proud that we can be a part of it.”

Last to speak was Laura Reed, the city’s stormwater program manager, who is managing the project for the City of Mountlake Terrace.

Laura Reed, project lead for the City of Mountlake Terrace, pauses on the bridge over Hall Creek to describe how it will be rechanneled and transformed to create a riparian corridor through the heart of the park.

She described how when the city first started working with the corps on this project, some were concerned that Mountlake Terrace was too small, and that the corps would take over.

“Happily that was not the case,” she said. “The corps has been great to work with. They listened to and respected our input, and this project is truly a team effort. It took many hands to launch this project.”

Laura Reed points out project details to State Rep. Laura Davis and Sen. Jesse Salomon.

Reed went on to point out that the project will be shifting into high gear this summer and fall, as the corps plants more than 2,000 native trees and shrubs, redirects Hall Creek to a new, more-stable channel, and constructs boardwalks, trails and footpaths.

“The number of places animals can call home is shrinking,” she concluded.  “This project switches that dynamic and provides more homes for these creatures. Five years from now this park will be full of birdsong, the creek will have otters and maybe even salmon. It will be a place to experience nature right here in the neighborhood, a place where the sounds of the city will fade away.”

Learn more and follow updates on the Ballinger Park Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Project at the project website here.

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

  1. This is fantastic news and kudos to all the folks that have spent the last few years developing this overall plan! The WSDOT culvert replacement is key and I hope the Lake Ballinger Forum continues to keep community members up to date. Bravo!

  2. This park is a major amenity for those of us in the Lake Ballinger neighborhood and is also one of the nicest open spaces in an urban area you can find. We are lucky to share this at the expense of Mountlake Terrace’s dedication, finances, and hard work. I think Edmonds needs to be doing more in partnership with MTLK Terrace particularly with access on the Interurban Trail and maintaining their water access which is an embarrassment compared to what is available cross lake. Edmonds contribution to access to this park was a cut chain link fence. Hopefully more focus on improving our current resources in partnership before buying expensive, useless pieces of property in other parts of town.

      1. Yes. It is a substantial open space area above Lake Ballinger that was already a city park that is now closed to access except for the far east side.

  3. I’ve seen crayfish in that stream, and it reminded me of 50 years ago when my brother and I would see them in Thornton creek near Jackson Park golf course. Our family loves this park! So glad it is being cared for and invested in. Thank you so very much, to those who care for this park, and those who are working to improve and preserve it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Real first and last names — as well as city of residence — are required for all commenters.
This is so we can verify your identity before approving your comment.

By commenting here you agree to abide by our Code of Conduct. Please read our code at the bottom of this page before commenting.