State park centennial
June 25, 2013
By Christina Corrales-Toy
Lake Sammamish park readies for a facelift
After a Pacific Northwest fall, winter and spring that seemingly blend together, muddied by a persistent rain, summer can never come soon enough.
When it does, however, it’s a thing of beauty, filled with blue sky, sunshine and a temperate climate that just beckons locals to come outside.
There is no better place to soak up those all-too infrequent rays than at Lake Sammamish State Park.
The 512-acre day-use park includes 6,858 feet of waterfront on scenic Lake Sammamish, miles of hiking trails and comfortable grass lawns, perfect for a family picnic. Washington State Parks celebrate its centennial this year.
Lake Sammamish State Park is also an ideal location to bird watch thanks to the diverse natural wetlands and a large great blue heron rookery.
Visitors can take to the water with one of the park’s nine boat ramps, or even rent a canoe, kayak or paddleboard right on the beach from Issaquah Paddle Sports.
“What’s great about Lake Sammamish is that it’s right in the population center of the state and not many of our state parks are,” said Nikki Fields, a parks planner with Washington State Parks. “It’s one of our gems.”
• 1.5 miles of biking and hiking trails
Watercraft owners can launch their boat at the park, provided they secure a $7 launching permit. Annual and one-day permits are available online at 1.usa.gov/190XEEy, at regional offices and at the park when staff is available.
Source: Washington State
There is no doubt, though, that this gem could use some polishing.
“I would call the park tired, and clearly a tired park needs some energy,” said Connie Marsh, a member of the newly formed Friends of Lake Sammamish State Park, a group of volunteers dedicated to supporting the park.
A needed facelift
In 2007, state parks commissioners approved a bold plan to remake and restore the park, including the construction of a new bathhouse, beach improvements, a lakeshore walkway and other amenities.
Funding was hard to come by for the projects, though, as the state struggled financially.
In 2013, however, construction will begin on at least one park improvement, and potentially more if the state Legislature includes funding in its final budget.
Beginning in July, the state will start building a 500-foot boardwalk that travels from the park’s Sunset Beach out to the mouth of Issaquah Creek, Fields said.
The boardwalk will replace what is currently just a muddy trail surrounded by wooden fencing on either side.
“It’s right by the creek and it’s right by the lake, and a lot of the park is wetland, so it’s not an easy place to walk,” Fields said.
So many visitors do travel along the trail in part because of the beautiful view looking back at Sunset Beach from the mouth of Issaquah Creek.
The project will make that trek much easier, with the installation of a boardwalk that will generally be less than 30 inches off the ground.
“The boardwalk’s intention is to allow people to get out to the end of the spit to look at the lake from there, but it will also make sure they walk on the boardwalk versus walking through the restoration work right along the shoreline that we’ve completed,” Fields said.
Interpretive signage will also be placed on the boardwalk, giving visitors an opportunity to learn more about the park, creek and lake.
The boardwalk will take three months to construct but it should be ready by fall, Fields said.
Bathhouse, beach improvements coming
If funding comes through, the state could also begin the much-needed construction of a new bathhouse on Sunset Beach in 2013.
Designs for a new structure are already complete and the necessary permits are in hand.
The current bathhouse appears worn and outdated and is an eyesore on what is an otherwise majestic view of the Lake Sammamish shoreline.
The new project would involve removing the current bathhouse to build an entirely new structure, complete with bathrooms and a concession area, Fields said. The building would also have unique environmental features.
“It is a green design,” Fields said. “It will have a planted roof and another part of the roof will have solar panels. We’re very excited about it and hopeful we get funding.”
Fields expects the bathhouse to be completed by June 2014.
The state also has plans to improve the beach itself, adding new sand and filling small sinkholes in the swimming area.
“The beach currently is not a very inviting place,” Fields said. “It was last improved in the 1970s. In the intervening years, a lot of the sand that was added back then has been washed away or covered over with silt.”
Repairing the sinkholes is one of the state’s priorities with its beach improvements, Fields said.
“There are also a number of sinkholes out in the water, so you could be walking in knee-deep water, and then take a step and suddenly you are in waist-deep water,” she said. “We’ve been concerned about it for awhile.”
The aim is to do the project in two phases. The first phase will include about 200 linear feet of beach improvements and the construction of a ramp that will allow people with disabilities to access the water. The state is seeking grant funding for the second phase, which would add another 200 to 250 feet of improvements.
The state is in the initial design phase of the project and still needs to acquire permits, which can take several months. It is likely that construction of phase one will not begin until summer 2014 at the earliest.
If you go
Lake Sammamish State Park is conveniently located just off Interstate 90 at 2000 N.W. Sammamish Road in Issaquah.
The other state park
Lake Sammamish is not the only state park in the area.
Become a friend
The newly formed Friends of Lake Sammamish State Park is a group of volunteers and community leaders committed to supporting, preserving and strengthening the local park.
“That one is kind of a complicated project to lay the sand down the way we want it,” Fields said. “I don’t know exactly how long that construction will take, but I expect that it’s more complicated than the boardwalk project.”
Making an inviting park
Lake Sammamish State Park is in a prime location, deep in the heart of the highly populated Puget Sound area. The hope is that the improvements will make the park more inviting to locals and people across the state.
Along with the proposed upgrades, the state has plans to improve the lawn area, create new meeting spaces and add an RV/tent campground. When these things will happen, however, is anyone’s best guess.
Local volunteers recently mobilized to offer its support with the formation of the Friends of Lake Sammamish State Park.
With volunteers and fundraising, the group expects to help ensure the 2007 conceptual park plan is implemented. The group will also make recommendations on other park upgrades that the community desires.
“There are other friends groups in the state and they’ve proven to be a valuable asset to the park in terms of helping get funding,” said David Kappler, one of the group’s board members.
Kappler used the Bridle Trails Park Foundation as an example of what a friends group can do. In 2002, when the state park in Kirkland was in jeopardy of closing, the Bridle Trails group agreed to act in partnership with the state in funding the cost of operations and maintaining the trails, with assurance the park would remain open.
While Lake Sammamish State Park is in no danger of closing, it does yearn for some community support, Marsh said.
“In cooperation with state parks and the city of Issaquah, there was sort of a push to see what the interest was and to potentially begin a friends group to help try and provide the sort of community support and improvements the park deserves,” she said.
Locals can support the park in a variety of ways, but any little bit helps, Marsh said.
“Community support or improvements could be going out for grant funding, actual physical labor on the ground or just a little bit of beautification,” she said.
The group is still in its infancy, but both Marsh and Kappler said they hope that it can one day have as large an impact on its park as the Bridle Trails organization did.
Kappler has dreams of lifeguards returning to the park one day with the Friends group’s support.
“I think lifeguards are just a critical thing for safety of the swimmers,” he said. “I think the park would get a lot more use, a lot more family and kid use if lifeguards were there.”
Marsh, on the other hand, just wants to see the vision of the park as a multi-use recreation area truly come to fruition.
“One of the main efforts is to try and make the park multi-user, so people don’t go and only visit their section of the park,” she said. “We want them to know that there are other things to do at the park.
“I want a great park that people want to go to,” she added. “That means that it’s beautiful, it’s maintained and there are things to do.”