Even on a cloudy day, Luther Burbank Park on Mercer Island offers nice views of Lake Washington. (Photo by Jennifer Bardsley)

Even on a cloudy day, Luther Burbank Park on Mercer Island offers nice views of Lake Washington. (Photo by Jennifer Bardsley)

Venture to Mercer Island for a great summer picnic spot

If not for islanders’ xenophobia in 1968, Luther Burbank would have been a state park on Lake Washington.

If someone told you that there was a beautiful, pristine, lakefront park with walking trails, an ADA-accessible playground and two off-leash dog parks — but that the community had a history of not wanting “outsiders” to come, would that make you more likely or less likely to visit?

Welcome to Mercer Island, where in 1968 the locals had the opportunity to convert 77 acres of waterfront property into a Washington state park but chose not to because they didn’t want outsiders to invade town. At least, that’s the story according to an article I found on historylink.org. Instead, thanks to the Forward Thrust bond propositions that raised $118 million, King County purchased what would become Luther Burbank Park for $2 million.

That was in 1968. Who knows how much the property would be worth now?

If your family is looking for the perfect place to picnic this summer, Luther Burbank has it all: walking trails, wetlands, a swimming beach with an on-duty lifeguard, public art, tennis courts, barbecue stations and a playground with a zip line.

Unfortunately, aging playground equipment and uneven surfaces make many parks in Snohomish County off limits to children with mobility challenges. But Luther Burbank’s ADA-accessible playground has poured-in-place rubber instead of wood chips and ramps connecting different levels. Children of all abilities can play together and have fun.

I’ve spent a lot of time at Luther Burbank Park this summer as I killed time waiting to pick my daughter up from a summer camp in Seattle. Every time I sat on the beach, I sighed and imagined what a glorious place it would have been to camp. But as a city park, it’s lovely too.

Luther Burbank is clean and well-kept. The parking lots have warning signs that say to lock up your valuables because it’s a high prowl area, but I accidentally left my car door wide open for an hour and half (because I’m stupid) and nobody stole my daughter’s iPad from the back seat.

I still haven’t managed to bring my entire family to Luther Burbank, but I did rope my teenage son into coming with me one morning, even though it meant waking up early and driving from Edmonds in Seattle commute traffic. We dropped off my daughter at camp, picked up smoothie bowls for breakfast at a tea shop in town and walked from one end of the park to the other. The big draw for my son was bringing our 14-pound poodle Merlin to the off leash area designated for small dogs.

1968 was a long time ago, so it’s probably time to forgive Mercer Island for not converting their island paradise into a state park. But honestly? Some of us campers can really hold a grudge. That’s why I’m telling everyone I know about this place. Let the invasion begin!

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal. Email her at teachingmybabytoread@gmail.com.

If you go

Luther Burbank Park is at 2040 84th Ave. SE, Mercer Island. For more information, go to www.mercergov.org/Page.asp?NavID=1138.

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