By Noah Haglund Herald Writer
MILL CREEK — It’s a park 17 years in the making.
Neighbors have walked trails at Tambark Creek Park since 1996, after Snohomish County and Mill Creek first acquired the land.
Building sports fields, a playground and an off-leash dog area turned into a long-term proposition, though, as the county looked for ways to pay for the work.
At last, elected leaders were able to unveil the finished product Friday afternoon. More opening events occurred Saturday.
“I don’t think there’s anything better than sunshine, blue skies and kids playing ball,” Executive John Lovick said during a brief opening ceremony. “This is the best thing we could do in this community.”
Construction crews broke ground in 2011.
Mike Draghici, 34, had noticed the project taking shape a few blocks from his house. Initially, Draghici assumed it was just another subdivision. To his relief, he saw a playground erected, and realized he would be getting a neighborhood park.
It’s where he spent Friday afternoon with his daughter, Rylie, 2 1/2.
“I’m here the first day, so I’m really excited about it,” he said.
The new 40-acre park sits amidst the suburbs southeast of Mill Creek proper, in one of the fastest-growing parts of Snohomish County. It’s bounded by 35th Avenue SE to the west, Sunset Road to the east and 180th Street SE to the south. There are parking lots on the east and west side.
The athletic field is the first synthetic-turf field in the county parks system. The lines are drawn for baseball, softball, soccer and lacrosse.
“We’ve had several hundred homes permitted during our construction phase,” county parks director Tom Teigen said. “We know that it’s going to be an incredibly well-used park, not only by the people who have wanted it for years, but by people who have moved into the new construction.”
Dave Gossett is serving his 12th year as a county councilman representing the district that includes the Mill Creek area. Throughout that time, he’s worked to bring Tambark Creek Park along.
“I’m in my last year of three terms now, and I’ve been working on this since my first year, so I’m extremely excited to see this happen,” Gossett said.
His involvement with the park predates his time in office. Earlier, Gossett had worked as a County Council analyst. In that capacity, he had studied the park purchase.
The land cost about $1 million. Mill Creek paid a quarter of the cost, the county the rest. It isn’t in Mill Creek now, but lies within the city’s future annexation area. For now, the county is responsible for most maintenance and operation.
The original idea, Gossett said, was to build a ballfield complex at Tambark.
Teigen said that plan would have included eight fields.
The land was too wet to make that work, though. Housing development on all sides only made it wetter, because of stormwater runoff.
The county then looked into using the parkland as a stormwater pond to handle runoff from nearby development, Gossett said. When that, too, proved unworkable, Gossett suggested using some money from the $70 million settlement King County paid Snohomish County as compensation for the impacts of the Brightwater sewage treatment plant.
The agreement required Snohomish County to spend the money on various parks, road improvements, habitat preservation and a community center.
The money came through in 2005. Lawsuits surrounding the Brightwater project delayed the work at Tambark for several years.
Jeffrey Rowley, 51, of south Everett knew the land from his childhood. His grandparents once owned it, starting in the 1940s. His grandfather kept a few cattle there and would chop down trees for firewood.
Rowley rode motorcycles in what’s now the Sunset Road parking lot. The ball fields used to be a swamp. Other areas, however, were the same as in his memories.
“I’m glad they preserved the woods,” Rowley said. “I remember some of the big trees that were standing.”
Miner’s Corner, a 13-acre park under construction in the Maltby area, also was funded with Brightwater money. It’s expected to open in the fall.
Construction costs at Tambark are about $7 million, Teigen said.
Some final work will continue throughout the summer. Athletic field rentals are expected to begin in July.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; email@example.com.