July 7, 2022

Pierce County is ready for summer

Now that the sun is (finally) out, it’s a great time to celebrate all Tacoma-Pierce County has to offer, from the majesty of Mount Rainier to the active waters of Commencement Bay to outdoor spaces and community events.

When it comes to economic development, quality of life and recreational amenities are key drivers to attract and retain talent, draw visitors and make for a happier place to be. Recent improvements and investments are making the South Sound an even better spot to live, work and visit.

Parks are shining

Metro Parks Tacoma has been on a roll, and Michael Liang is thrilled to be along for the ride.

“I hear it all the time,” said Liang, who was sworn in as the newest Metro Parks Tacoma Board commissioner in May. “Our great parks, green spaces and access to nature are why people want to live and work here.”

Liang knows about creating vibrant communities that people want to be a part of. He’s also director of Spaceworks, a joint initiative of the City of Tacoma and the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce. Spaceworks provides space, training and resources to artists and other creatives to transform communities and help small businesses thrive.

In the two months since Liang donned his Metro Parks commissioner hat, three major parks have launched reopenings. That’s welcome news for residents and visitors alike coming out of the pandemic.

Here’s a glimpse at projects supported by grants and bonds:

    • The beach is back. In June, Point Defiance Park’s Owen Beach officially reopened after being closed for 16 months amid a $6.3 million renovation project. The design changes include a new two-way entry/exit road, a larger parking lot with ADA-accessible drop-off zones, new restrooms, a beach pavilion for community gatherings and sciences classes, and more.

The improvements, which are part of the 2015 Destination Point Defiance master plan, go far beyond making Owen Beach a great place to visit. They also ensure access for future generations. Moreover, all facilities were set back and uphill to allow for rising water levels in Puget Sound.

“The Owen Beach renovation is one of the first major projects in Pierce County that unapologetically acknowledges and accounts for climate change,” Liang said. “Other organizations, institutions and municipalities can point to this project and see what can be accomplished.”

Making it official at the newly renovated Owen Beach. From left: Connie McCloud, Puyallup Tribe Cultural director; Lisa Keating, Tacoma Public Schools (TPS) Board; Rhonda Newton, TPS Science and Math Institute student; Elizabeth Bonbright, TPS Board chair; Ted Willhite, Washington State Recreation and Conservation Funding Board chair; and Michael Liang, Metro Parks Tacoma Board commissioner.

  • Jewel-box Conservatory gets a polish. In May, the W. Seymour Conservatory reopened following a $2.7 million renovation that made the historic gem brighter, warmer and more accessible. Additions include a living plant wall, dart frog vivarium, new lighting, and improvements that create a more comfortable environment for plants and visitors.
  • Eastside urban oasis makes space for pups and people. The north end of Tacoma gets a lot of attention when it comes to parks and open space. But there’s another big improvement to a sprawling, natural space on the east side of the city. Swan Creek Park recently celebrated a $4 million renovation that includes a 4-acre fenced and wooded dog park, bike trails and pedestrian paths. Read more about the project here.

Another change residents and visitors will notice this summer is the motor-free outer loop of Five Mile Drive at Point Defiance. On May 30, Metro Parks closed the popular stretch to cars and other motorized traffic after a geotechnical report confirmed ongoing erosion and slope instability along the park’s bluffs. Bikes and pedestrians still have access to the loop, and Metro Parks is discussing ways to make the experience accessible for those with mobility challenges.

Cities are celebrating

After two summers of many traditional summer gatherings put on hold by the pandemic, festivals, celebrations and other special events are roaring back across Pierce County.

Here are just a few events to put on your calendar:

That’s just for starters. Travel Tacoma Mt. Rainier Tourism and Sports offers a full guide of things to experience this summer and beyond, from the mountain to the city to the sea.

Visitors are coming

With all that Tacoma-Pierce County has to offer and leisure travel making a comeback, it’s no surprise hotels are filling up, including two premium properties that opened their doors during the pandemic.

The Silver Cloud Hotel Tacoma at Point Ruston Waterfront features 194 waterfront guest rooms and suites, and the 22-story Marriott Tacoma Downtown offers 304 rooms adjacent to the Greater Tacoma Convention Center. More downtown accommodations are on the horizon, including a 114-room Staybridge Suites hotel planned for a vacant site at 2801 S. C Street. Construction is slated to begin in September.


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