The Mercer Island City Council is currently in the process of planning the Aubrey Davis Park Master Plan, set to be approved in the fall of 2019.
The park has retained the same original construction since it was first designed some 25 years ago. The purpose of the plan is to create a long-term vision for the park, trail and open space.
Aubrey Davis Park is 2.8 miles long and covers more than 90 acres along Interstate 90 on Mercer Island. The park includes two softball fields, four tennis courts, a picnic shelter, two playground areas, public restrooms, two outdoor basketball courts and acres of open space.
The park opened to the public in the 1990s in an effort to minimize the impact of I-90. The lid park, the Mountains to Sound Trail, a boat launch and the Greta Hackett Outdoor Sculpture Gallery are all part of the park.
The parkland is primarily owned by the state Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and managed by the city. WSDOT is working with the city to develop the proposed master plan.
“We need to renegotiate the maintenance agreement with WSDOT,” said interim city manager Jessi Bon at a study session in a city council meeting on July 16. She hopes to address maintenance issues while also planning for the capital needs of the future.
With a strong focus on park operations, Bon chose to design the master plan now in order to meet the needs of aging facilities and infrastructure. She wants to fix declining landscapes and limited sight lines, while promoting safety and access for people with disabilities.
After multiple open house discussions, surveys and other forms of community engagement, guiding principles were decided upon in terms of improvements to the park. Proposed developments include trail safety, environmental sustainability, healthier ecological systems, updated existing amenities and better visibility throughout the park.
“We’re trying to make sure we meet the minimum standards for the trail and also preserve the natural character of the park,” said parks superintendent Paul West.
The park master plan reflects regional growth and recreation trends, as well as input from the community. More than 50 percent of residents ranked “retain the natural park character” as the most important goal of the master plan, according to a survey presented at the city council study session.
“Early on in the public engagement, we heard a broad spectrum of opinions,” West said. The public likes the natural character of the park and doesn’t want to see lots of new facilities created in the park, he said.
Surveys also indicated that 43 percent of residents prefer passive activities, compared to the 57 percent who prefer active activities. Mercer Island homeowners rated “gathering spaces” as the most important activity at the park.
After using the advice received from a 10-month community engagement process, the planning team recommended five key areas of focus for the plan: vegetation and soils, accessibility, new amenities, cultural arts and trail safety.
Improvement of vegetation and soils is one of the highest priorities for Aubrey Davis Park, Bon explained at the study session. The master plan recommends the development of a plant palette and a soil improvement strategy in order to balance the cost of irrigation and maintenance at the park.
Bon said safety improvements to the trail system is the most controversial topic of the plan. Most significantly, accessibility within the trail has been a major subject of concern by residents. The park was built prior to the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and some facilities do not meet accessibility standards.
The community has shown little enthusiasm for new amenities, yet residents expressed support of a new restroom building to serve the soccer/lacrosse field and playground area. While many people voted to preserve the character of the park, the arts and culture section of the plan is still being developed to provide “place making” and low-cost opportunities to enhance the vast space.
The features shown in the master plan will be implemented over time and additional detailed design work will be needed before any construction can begin.
The third and final community open house for the Aubrey Davis Park Master Plan will be on Sept. 23 at the Mercer Island Community and Event Center, West said. The open house will present the draft plan for discussion and provide an opportunity for public input prior to the city council meeting.