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$1 million for Luther Burbank | Money earmarked for dog park, shoreline restoration

Mongo, a Goldendoodle, and Jake, a yellow Lab, chase a tennis ball into Lake Washington as Island resident Ariel Robinson, left, and Elise Ratajczak watch at the Luther Burbank Park off-leash area on Mercer Island last Wednesday, July 23. - Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter
Mongo, a Goldendoodle, and Jake, a yellow Lab, chase a tennis ball into Lake Washington as Island resident Ariel Robinson, left, and Elise Ratajczak watch at the Luther Burbank Park off-leash area on Mercer Island last Wednesday, July 23.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter

The often muddy and somewhat makeshift off-leash dog park at Luther Burbank will finally get a much needed makeover. The adjacent shoreline overrun by invasive blackberry bushes will also be renovated from Calkins Point down to the docks.

Last Monday, the City Council unanimously approved a project bid that will restore the northeastern shore of Luther Burbank park this fall, including improvements in the off-leash area and beach access points. The city expects the improvements to be finished by this November.

In all, about 1,500 linear feet of shoreline will be restored and protected as six beach-access areas will be established as part of the $1.3 million project. The bidder hopes to complete the project at the estimated cost of $981,000.

The shoreline restoration absorbs the majority of the cost, at nearly $490,000. According to Parks and Recreation Director and Assistant City Manager Pete Mayer, the bidding was so favorable that the city was able to get an additional 900 linear feet of shoreline work, more than double what it originally sought.

“This project incorporates the best management practices out there,” Mayer said of the planned restoration. “This design has been effective at Seattle’s Magnuson Park. It’s our hope that in 15 to 20 years it will still be in good shape. This is the best example of a long-term solution.”

The shoreline work, to be done by Pacific Earthworks, Inc., will include newly planted natural habitat that supports juvenile and adult salmon, bald eagles and other birds and amphibians, according to Mayer. The project qualified for a $300,000 state grant, provided for the improvement or protection of aquatic lands used for public purposes. With the grant, the maximum cost to Island taxpayers will be $1 million, which will come from the city’s capital improvement budget generated by real estate excise taxes.

The off-leash dog park is the second major aspect of the project, as it will be slightly expanded and modified from its current configuration. According to the parks operations supervisor, Mike Elde, dogs will be restricted from a wetland on the northern edge but gain access in the shy-dog area to be created on the opposite end of the off-leash area. There will be three beaches within the dog park where Fido can take a plunge into the lake. Most of the work to be done within the play area for dogs will also include removing non-native invasive plant species, such as blackberry bushes, installing a draining system and new fencing composed of a split railing with mesh and new gates, and adding new gravel paths and surfaces with benches and garbage cans.

The existing off-leash area will remain open until the first week of September and close after school starts. The city plans to establish another temporary off-leash area in the park while construction takes place.

The city acquired Luther Burbank from the King County parks system in 2003 and developed a master plan that included the approved work. Joe Wallace, the president of Friends of Luther Burbank Park, an Island organization created after the city took control of the park, told the Council that he supported the improvements.

Extra landscaping may be purchased for park volunteers to add later, if approved by the Council. The motion approved by the Council states unspent budgeted money saved during construction could fund the final landscape improvements. If possible, the Council plans to use extra money to complete the planting outside of the off-leash area, possibly with Islanders pitching in the labor.

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