Park opening a celebration of community

Tiny soccer players dribbled, scrimmaged and passed the ball around on the field at Covington Community Park as city officials celebrated the grand opening June 8.

Editor’s Note: To read more about the park opening, see Annie Livengood’s column on page 4.

Tiny soccer players dribbled, scrimmaged and passed the ball around on the field at Covington Community Park as city officials celebrated the grand opening June 8.

Opening the first phase of the park — the soccer field, a parking lot and trail system to name a few features — marks a significant milestone for Covington.

“This is a really special occasion for the city,” said Covington’s Parks and Recreation Commission Chair, Steven Pan. “It has the ability to impact our entire community. This is the largest and first active use field park that we have and that’s wonderful.”

Phase one is vital because it fills a critical need which is one of the highest priorities for residents according to research the city has done in preparing its Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Plan. Scott Thomas, the city’s parks and recreation director, told the Reporter in December there is a significant need to provide a place for children to play sports.

This new field, which has been in use since a soft opening May 9, is versatile because it can be broken into mini fields for multiple games at once or the full field can be used by older soccer players.

The grass field, which was planted in early October, spent the entire winter growing and developing its root system. Weather was ideal over the winter for the field to grow on a site which was formerly a pasture — the soccer field takes up about half of that field.

Covington Community Park is located at 180th Avenue Southeast and Southeast 240th Street.

The site is about 30 acres and is a collection of four parcels purchased by the city in 2003 and then brought into King County’s urban growth boundary in 2004. It was annexed into the city in 2008. It is a short walk from Tahoma High School.

Construction had a $1.6 million price tag while the total project cost comes in at $2.26 million.

“It took us 10 years to build to this point,” said Mayor Margaret Harto.

Funding came from a variety of sources including grants as well as city dollars, with the City Council approving an increase to the utility tax in 2012 to ensure funding to cover the costs of maintenance.

Harto told the crowd who gathered for the ribbon cutting June 8 that partnerships were a key element in getting funding for the park. Years ago 47th District Rep. Pat Sullivan, a former Covington councilman, told the city he wished there was someplace for his daughters to play soccer.

“Rep. Sullivan agreed to help us get state money if we agreed to put it at the top of our priority list,” Harto said. “I’m happy to say both sides kept their parts of the agreement.”

Finding funding was not easy, though, Harto explained, especially because the efforts began in 2009 after the recession took hold yet Covington found a number of partners to get grants and money from the state legislature to make it happen.

“Over half of the development costs of this park have been paid for by grants and through partnerships,” Harto said. “I want to say thank you to the community for being involved since the beginning.”

Considerable thought was put into the trail design at Covington Community Park. Designers and contractors have worked to preserve as many of the big trees on the property as possible.

The trails were built so they are ADA accessible with gentle, curving slopes so those with walkers or in wheelchairs can safely enjoy them. The trails were also designed with extensive sight lines and awareness of escape routes for greater safety.

One piece of the new trail system was built along a Bonneville Power Administration power line easement on the southeast portion of the property. It will eventually connect up with another trail that is, at least temporarily, known as the Jenkins Prairie Trail, which will connect with other trails in the region which could take people from Lake Wilderness through Covington down to Lake Meridian.

That portion of the trail is paved and is capable of handling BPA’s heaviest work trucks, Thomas noted.

Other portions of the trail on the site will have interpretive signs. School field trips or small groups could make use of that feature of the trail, Thomas told the Reporter in December.

There are additional phases planned for the park which means the city will again seek out support from the state as well as community partnerships to make that happen.

There are plans for tennis courts, an open field, a play area, a place for a stage for community events and much more. As of the time Harto was talking about future phases, the state Legislature was working to finish its special session and finalize budgets. She explained there was money included in both the House and Senate budgets for the second phase. It’s just a matter of what happens when everything is finalized likely this week or early next week.

“We still have a long ways to go with this park,” Harto said.

In the meantime, phase one is open, something Pan said was rewarding for all the people who worked on the project as commissioners or city staff.

“To see it come to life is just wonderful,” Pan said.