TACOMA, Wash. - After being closed for nearly a year and a half for renovations, a popular beach in Tacoma is reopening. Owen Beach in Point Defiance Park has some new features that park officials say will make it the gem of the park system in Tacoma.
Some of those renovations included a new play area that families were taking advantage of Saturday afternoon.
"We wanted to see what the new beach looks like, and it’s really nice," said Jeramy Gee. He and his son Balin were taking a few turns on the slide when we caught up with them.
"He wants me to go with him a lot," said Jeramy. "I think it’s a huge improvement. The buildings are a lot better. There are things for little kids to do."
Jeramy was also planning to take Balin to play on a new orca sculpture in the playground area, which has been specially designed for little ones.
Young and old also splashed at the water's edge. The changes near the water include better access to the beach, ADA access, and an area for kayakers to drop in. Those who have been coming to the park for decades were eager to hit the water.
"I’ve been coming here since 1990. It’s nice to see it open after 16 months. We made it a point to come down here," said Chris Alcantar. "I‘m a big kayaker. It’s great to be back."
Joe Brady of Metro Parks Tacoma says renovations also included pushing the parking area and buildings further away from the water to mitigate the impacts of climate change and a rise in water levels in Puget Sound.
"Almost all of the renovations we’ve done at Owen Beach are about preparing for its next 50-100 years of life," said Joe Brady, Deputy Director of Regional Parks & Attractions, Metro Parks Tacoma.
The $6.3 million in renovations were part of the 2015 Destination Point Defiance Master Plan, funded by $2.3 million in City of Tacoma voter-approved 2014 bonds, along with $700,000 in MPT operating funds and $2.25 million in Washington State RCO funds.
"Made part in parcel not only Tacoma voter-approved bonds back in 2014, and an allocation from the State Recreation and Conservation office, as well as an allocation from the Tacoma School District," said Joe Brady.
Another $1.05 million dollars came from Tacoma Public Schools for a shared pavilion.
"There will be marine classes. There could be integrated art classes and humanities classes, underwater robotics classes," said Liz Minks, Tacoma Public Schools' SAMI co-director.
"The building here will offer our students the ability to get out in the park with hands-on learning," said Joni Hall, SAMI co-director
Joe Brady says the park will be open until a half an hour after dusk each day. Visitors say the changes will help to build memories for generations to come.
"It’s gorgeous down here, really nice," said Jeramy.