As many walkers know, good parks with trails are hard to find. That is why we have chosen the best three parks for walkers in Tacoma. Those three are: Wapato Park, Nature Center, and Point Defiance Park.
Wapato Park, located at South Sheridan in Tacoma (off I-5 near 72nd street exit), has a walking trail that encompasses the lake, gardens, a softball field, and two sand volleyball courts. “Wapato” is the Native American name for a wild wetland plant (sagittaria latifolia) that grew heavily around the lake. The Wapato plant produces small bulbs that look like potatoes.
Wendy Mcgarrah, a florist and Domestic Engineer, is a daily walker around the lake. She remarked:“It’s a mile, well maintained with trees, and a lot of other people are there so it feels safe.” Wendy has been visiting Wapato Park since her and her husband moved to Tacoma. “But technically I came here since I was a little girl and we could ice skate on the lake,” she said. Some special memories that have occurred at this park, “We used to do family picnics and played basketball that was fun. I’m the youngest of 10 kids,” what most people may not know about Wapato Park; “there are nice walking trails. There used to be exercise trails. For example, there used to be a pull up bar and most people didn’t like it because of structured exercise,” Wendy said. When asked why she thought the park was better than other parks in the area, she responded, “It has trails and good ones where you don’t attract dirt and mud in the car. It’s paved and easy for a daily walk. It’s nice. It’s only 0.9 miles for the circle.” Wendy explained that for a longer walk, she and her husband start their walk from their house, which is a half mile away from the park.
Ashley Suhoversnik, a hairdresser, likes the walking trail for exercise. She visited the park when she was a teenager. She remembers hanging out with friends at the park. When asked why she thought the park was better for walking than other parks in the area, she responded, “Because there is a nice path carved around the lake for walkers.”
For those that want to have a picnic after burning calories with a walk, picnic sites are available for rent between April 1 and September 30 each year. Reservations may be made up to 365 days in advance by visiting the following website: http://www.metroparkstacoma.org/page.php?id=788.
The Nature Center, also commonly known as “Snake Lake,” is located on South Tyler Street across from Fred Meyer in Tacoma. It is a 70-acre wetland habitat that has nearly two miles of soft surfaced trails and a half mile of outdoor access route for wheelchairs. According to the Metro Parks of Tacoma website, its mission is “dedicated to enhancing our understanding and appreciation of the natural world through education and recreation.”
Wendy commented: “Snake Lake is what I like for hiking. Point Defiance I don’t really like for trails but I like for longer walks for really nice scenery.” She explained how Snake Lake has hills and trails. Her husband, Patrick Mcgarrah a Remodeling Contractor, explained: “Snake Lake is good for kids, there’s wild life that you can feed there. More of a nature preserve,” he added. The Nature Center also has Discovery Pond, which is “a natural play area for children designed to inspire creative play and environmental learning,” [Metro Parks Tacoma website]. There is a tree house, a pond with waterfalls and a log crossing, rain gardens, trails, and much more. Discovery Pond is open every day at 9:30 am until 30 minutes after sunset.
Wendy added “Snake Lake has turtles that other people may not be aware of. They sun on the logs.”
Point Defiance Park has 702-acres of natural forest including hiking and running trails, saltwater beaches, a zoo, an aquarium, a museum, and much more. It is located on Pearl Street in Tacoma. There is an information kiosk located at the Pearl Street entrance informing visitors what activities and events are offered at the park.
Dave Thomas, Supervisor at Starbucks, explained what he liked most about the park: “It’s been kept wild it’s an original, old growth forest that hasn’t been logged. There’s lots of trails for running, there’s variety, a beach, zoo, one of the best parks ever.” He has been visiting the park for 40 years as he has lived in Tacoma his entire life with the exception of 8 years. Dave runs with his dogs on the trails and hikes on the beach. When asked what he thought most people did not know about the park, he said, “That it has so much variety most people think it’s a zoo and go home. Most people don’t appreciate it for what it is and don’t explore it.”
Not only does Point Defiance have a variety of things to do, but it appears that others enjoy the park’s scenic views. Wendy, who’s visited the park for over 40 years, likes Point Defiance because she can take a walk on the beach. “It has really nice views,” she said. Ashley likes the 5 mile scenic drive. When asked why she thought the park was better for walking than other parks, she responded, “Because there are numerous trails, you would take months to complete them all.”
What Patrick likes most about Point Defiance is “Frisbee” he said. “Old Fort Nisqually is for the younger kids,” he added.
Point Defiance appears to be very popular among residents in Tacoma. “Point Defiance is the best. It’s awesome. Lots of history from Fort Nisqually, nature, and people can go there to instantaneously escape to the mountains,” Dave said.
Mark commented: “It’s a good family place. Lots to see! You can spend a whole day there and not get bored so much to do. It’s clean and there’s nature and animals that you can see on the walk,” When asked what he liked most about the park, Mark replied “Have you seen the zoo lights? The December zoo lights are pretty.” Ashley added, “Point Defiance is by far my top pick out of the 3 parks referred to in this article.”
I guess we really did save the best park for last. Check out all three of the parks to determine which is the best for you. You may find that you will like each one for different reasons.
By Carly Calabrese, Tacoma.com staff reporter