Mukilteo’s waterfront makeover plans include parks and paths

MUKILTEO — For years, the city’s waterfront was dominated by a former military tank farm.

The last of the 16 massive fuel storage tanks were removed in 1999, yet its ghost town-like imprint can still be seen. The aging pavement of a roadway that ran through the property is surrounded by weedy lots.

“Ever since the tanks have been removed, there’s a bunch of industrial, decayed buildings and crunched up metal,”said Mayor Jennifer Gregerson. “It’s definitely not part of our vision for our waterfront.”

Now the city has a plan to transform not only this site but the look of the waterfront from nearby Edgewater Beach to Lighthouse Park near the current ferry terminal.

It calls for construction of a nearly mile-long promenade along the waterfront between the beach and the popular city park, as well as adding other parks, a scuba diving site, and providing more places to access aquatic activities such as kayaking and fishing.

“People look to Lighthouse Park and the ferry terminal as the signature pieces of the community,” Gregerson said. “I think this creates expanded beach access and more places to visit.”

Some the changes could occur in the next five years, but it could take 20 years for all the improvements to be paid for and built, Gregerson said. Once complete, it will mark one of the biggest changes to the waterfront in decades, she said.

Plans for redevelopment of the waterfront coincide with another big change coming to the area, a new $129 million ferry terminal, scheduled to open in mid-2019.

As the ferry terminal is completed and begins operations, “the whole waterfront will be completely revitalized,” said Patricia Love, the city’s community development director. “There will be high demand for access to the water.”

The planned 15-foot wide promenade will include a path through the former tank farm property, an area that’s been closed to the public for more than 60 years, Love said.

The city has set aside money in this year’s budget to begin survey work for the promenade. If grants the city hopes to apply for this year are approved, work on an initial phase of the promenade could begin in 2017 or 2018, she said.

There’s also the potential for the addition of more pocket parks, such as near the existing ferry terminal, Love said. When the ferry terminal is demolished, plans call for the area to be turned into a small plaza with beach access and a view area, she said. “You’ll have a beautiful lookout onto the water.”

The city also hopes to add signs detailing some of the area’s history, such as Japanese Gulch, where Japanese immigrants settled at the turn of the 20th century and salmon restoration efforts that have been undertaken in Japanese Gulch Creek.

Plans also call for daylighting the creek running through lower Japanese Gulch and adding restrooms, beach access or overlooks, and dive park showers, benches and parking near Edgewater Beach.

Work on the waterfront plan involved talks with a number of local groups such as the historical society, scuba divers and other recreational groups, as well as local businesses, restaurants, and the arts commission, said City Council President Bob Champion.

“It’s truly a big deal when we think about developing the waterfront,” he said. “It’s imperative we do it right for the citizens and visitors to Mukilteo.”

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