Evan Thompson / The Record — Carole Riggin of Clinton (left) and Langley resident Louise Richardson (right) enjoy a lunch at Seawall Park on June 22 with the Saratoga Passage in the background. The Seawall Park Ad Hoc Committee recommended a theme of ‘natural beauty’ for the park.

Seawall Park to have a theme of ‘natural beauty’

A host of little changes currently underway are steering Seawall Park in a new direction.

The Seawall Park Ad Hoc Committee’s improvement plan for the park received the Langley City Council’s stamp of approval on June 19. It does not include plans for an expensive facelift, but will focus on the “natural beauty” of the area by sprucing up the park with a mix of short-term enhancements and long-term upgrades.

“Everything you do down there needs to support the view of the mountains, the sound and Camano Island,” said the committee’s chairwoman, Sharon Emerson. “It’s such a stunning view. You don’t want to be distracted by having the land already too busy. You want it to be attractive, but not the main attraction.”

Emerson presented the nine-person committee’s ideas at the council’s June 19 meeting. The group recommended the park be kept “simple and attractive” and not brimming with art or event spaces. The emphasis will be on improved access, native plant beds, educational signage and attractions such as swings or shelters. Any art in the park will be primarily functional, such as benches and tables.

The city’s ability to acquire grants and pay for the more ambitious projects, such as development of one of the park’s entrances by Anthes Avenue and First Street into a gateway area, will dictate the flow of progress, Emerson said.

“The mission is not accomplished until something happens down there,” Emerson said.

Other long-term plans include developing a less steep pathway down to Seawall Park; installing interpretive signage to educate people about the surrounding area; exploring Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) access options; building a fence to define the end of the park and to protect private property owners on Sunrise Lane from trespassers; removing invasive vegetation from city-owned bluff areas; and planting dense and thorny native vegetation that will discourage ascent up the bluff.

The committee’s original task was to create a visionary plan for the park and to make recommendations for incremental changes. With that essentially complete, the committee recommended it be changed into a sub-committee of the Parks, Open Spaces and Trails Commission so it can oversee the design and execution of the improvement plan. The council approved the proposal.

The committee recommended two ways of developing a design. The first gives the sub-committee the task of designing a layout, including the placement of paths, benches and tables, native plant beds, signage, art and attractions such as swings and shelters. This would also include collaboration with other stakeholders in the park, including the Langley Arts Commission, Parks, Open Spaces and Trails Commission, Langley Main Street Association, city staff and other interested individuals.

The second option is to sponsor a design contest in the same way that helped to create a park at Anthes Avenue and Second Street.

The execution phase includes input from the public, feasibility advice from city staff, financial support from citizens to accommodate upgrades not likely to be funded by grants, and the professional installation of paths, shelter and a fence.

Langley resident John deWit, a member of the ad hoc committee who is now part of the new sub-committee, said keeping the park clean, safe and well maintained should also be a priority. He said perhaps the biggest strength of Seawall Park is its “million dollar view” and added that keeping things simple at the park will be better in the long run.

“You don’t have to spend a lot of money to maintain it,” deWit said.

Mayor Tim Callison predicted the long-term vision for the park will be fully realized over the next five years, as finding grant opportunities takes time. He said he’s optimistic that the development plans will make Seawall Park more attractive and a destination that’s far easier to access.

“We’re the Village by the Sea, but it’s difficult to get down there and when you get down there, there’s not much there yet,” Callison said. “…I think it’s going to be a very attractive destination for people eating dinner, and for more foot traffic.”

Some of the projects that the committee recommended the city tackle in the next month or two are already in progress. Public Works Director Stan Berryman said the city has already begun repairing and replacing existing picnic tables and benches, adding more trash and recycling bins and conducting a land survey. Other projects include improving the stairway leading up to Boy and Dog Park, cutting back vegetation around the stairway and adding flower pots at the base of the hill below Anthes Avenue.