Changes are coming to a known and loved spot in Point Defiance, and it’s for the better.

If you are someone who frequents Point Defiance you’ll soon find that the park is going to look a little different. Owen Beach will be undergoing construction beginning Feb. 22 and will sadly be inaccessible to the public until mid-summer of 2022.

This closure comes at an inconvenient time with summer quickly approaching. Owen Beach brings the people of Tacoma a fun water escape right in their backyard. Not having access to this will be a huge damper on many people’s summer plans, but what exactly is this construction about anyways? Is it worth losing a summer of fun? 

Since the announcement of the beach’s closure, people have been sharing their thoughts about these improvements. Many of which seem to be negative. Some explain that the construction will change the feeling of what the beach is, taking it from an open natural beach to a more structured one. In all honesty though, I feel this is something that needs to happen considering it has been a while since the park has seen major improvements.

After watching a video by Metro Parks called “Owen Beach Improvements Presentation” and researching the plan on Metro Parks’ website, the changes that they have laid out will make a significant and positive impact, which will benefit everyone. Modifications of the area were bound to happen sooner rather than later as a remodel for the aging 50-year-old buildings are needed in order to continue making Owen Beach a place where people desire to come and create memories, much like I have.

These improvements include: adding new restrooms, improved parking, improving existing buildings, adding a multi-use pavilion, environment friendly play areas, as well as making the beach more accessible to those with disabilities. Even with all these newly added things, further down the beach the same aesthetic of the park that has always been there will remain. The driftwood, which has been a big part of the beach, will not be lost. 

The new improvements to the entrance along with the newly designated play areas are being made more easily accessible for those who have disabilities, which is something I feel should have happened long ago. Due to these changes, these individuals can now enjoy the park and allow more people to experience its beauty.

Something that I found particularly interesting are the plans to raise the recreational areas and push them back in order to make them on different levels leading down to the beach, almost as if it were a continuation of the tides. This can be seen in their plan regarding the informational area’s location along with the new buildings and restrooms near the parking lot. The next level down will be the open lawn and play area, then walkways that will lead gradually down to the beach itself.

“This setback is to provide long-term resiliency of the facilities as we take into consideration the scientific data for sea level rise occurring along the shoreline,” Metro Parks explains in their FAQ section on their website under Owen Beach Improvements. 

Even though this will be a new look, the construction will ensure that we still have access to this area in the years to come as the sea rises. Not only this, but the changes in parking will make it more accessible to disabled people. And beyond that, they are making outputs looking over or near the water that allow people with disabilities to have the ability to experience the beach in an easier way. 

The current beach setup makes it very difficult to get a wheelchair anywhere near the water along the rocky terrain. With these outlooks, it will give these individuals the possibility to get close to the water in a much safer manner.

They are also making it easier for individuals who enjoy water sports, such as kayaking, by including better storage for the rented kayaks in the pre-existing building, which is currently unused. They plan on constructing an incline into the water for easier access that also ensures a way to safely enter the water during high tide. 

Beyond that, a multi-use pavilion will invite many kinds of activities to the beach. People can rent out space to create memories at the beach, like family get-togethers or birthday parties. It doesn’t just stop with recreational activities though, the high school Science and Math Institute students can use this as a classroom. 

As a SAMI alumni, having a learning space down there will bring back some of the old SAMI experience since students are actually going out into the park and learning what’s around that classroom. For example, this space could be used for marine biology, biology and chemistry classes during labs or for an art class focusing on the sound. Having access to the area that is being taught in class is very beneficial and makes it easier to understand things that are happening. Instead of having to imagine what something looks like, they can actually see these events take place in front of them.

Change can be hard, especially if you have close personal connections with that area — including myself, since I spent four years in that park during high school having class down at the beach. But sometimes changes are needed in order to allow others to also be able to make those same connections and memories that you have. Even though many people are against these changes at Owen Beach, I feel that these changes are going to make all the difference for future generations.

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