Gateway Park is ready to open Sept. 30. The new 72-acre park extends west along State Route 302 from near the Harvest Time Country Store at 97th Avenue NW to the eastern edge of the 360 Trails Park on 144th Street NW.
“I think that Gateway Park has the potential to be a community builder,” said Scott Gallacher, Key Pen Parks executive director. “Huge spaces bring community together. It’s a gateway to the Key Peninsula and a gateway to community.”
The original Gateway property was 39 acres, but Key Pen Parks jumped at an unexpected chance to buy two neighboring parcels totaling 33 acres on both the west and east sides of the park in September 2016. “With that and 360 Trails right next door, it’s one massive 432 acres of recreational opportunity for the Key Peninsula,” Gallacher said.
“We didn’t have any parks on the north end of the Key Peninsula; we jointly operate Horseshoe Lake, but that’s seasonal,” Gallacher said. “Our need was for playgrounds, picnic areas and restrooms; this is what people asked for. Access points to 360 Trails and an off-leash dog park. We don’t have a dog park, but we’re looking at it.”
The original five-phase plan for Gateway is being revised to include the additional 33 acres added last year.
“We’ve done phase one and two—general purpose field, parking, horse trailer parking, concrete pad, playground with zip lines, restrooms; the pavilion is being assembled,” Gallacher said. “The thing we’re working on next is phase three, which is the splash pad, amphitheater and another shelter or pavilion.
“The 360 Trails map is also being redone because we’re adding trails now constantly,” he said.
Little Minter Creek runs along the north side of Gateway near 360 Trails before joining Minter Creek south of 118th Avenue NW. “It’s this great natural habitat; there’s a beaver dam and a heron rookery. We’ve got culvert blockages in a couple spots, but once those culverts are removed, we could have salmon all the way up in here eventually. There’s nothing like it anywhere nearby.”
The original concrete pad at Gateway was torn up and replaced at the end of August, a development that brought many queries and complaints to the Key Pen Parks office, Gallacher said. “It wasn’t up to spec, so the contractor had to redo it at their expense. That concrete pad that’s there now, I can put a tent there and rent out 2,000 square feet of covered space. We’ve got event boxes so food trucks can come in and hook up to power and water.” Key Pen Parks plans to market the park for paid events to generate revenue.
“Phase one and two for this development is about $1.8 million,” Gallacher said. “We’ve been successful in two large state grants: one in acquisition of the property and two in this development phase. We’ve gotten almost a million dollars in grant money for this property so far.”
The Key Pen Parks Foundation and other donors have contributed to the project as well, Gallacher said. “The Rotary Club of Gig Harbor has paid for the pavilion; the park makes up the balance with property tax dollars from our capital budget.”
Volunteers have also been a significant factor, Gallacher said. “We’ve got these volunteer parties that have stepped up to do a lot of work; we’re probably north of $10,000 in volunteer labor already,” he said.
“We developed this park economically; there’s not a lot of flash here,” he said. “Gateway reflects the style and the needs of the community. People like trees, they like open spaces and they want their kids out there. Open space brings the community together.”
Key Pen Parks will spend the next six months finalizing phase three, then applying for state grants by August 2018 to pay for development, including a grass or stone bench amphitheater and splash pad, Gallacher said.
Key Pen Parks will also review its entire agency comprehensive plan to include “what people want to do and see on the Key Peninsula,” Gallacher said, as it continues to develop other properties.
“All of our park lands are open; there might be gates on them, but they’re open,” Gallacher said. “We’re working on a trailhead access point at the 480 (Key Center Forest), redevelopment of the playground area at Volunteer Park, and we’re looking to purchase a piece of property at Taylor Bay with a grant to expand the existing parcel.”
Meanwhile, planning, paying for and completing all of the work at Gateway Park will take years.
“A large part of it is funding,” Gallacher said. “There are so many variables, I think the best thing to say is that this will be multigenerational—15 or 20 years. It’s going to grow up with the community.”